Rubber nanosensor technology tested

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The rubber nanosensor technology, which can differentiate cup lumps formed using battery solution from the recommended formic/acetic acid, was tested in Zamboanga Peninsula recently by the De La Salle University (DLSU) and the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCAARRD).

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The DLSU project team together with Marcelino Siladan, Forestry and Environment Research Division, PCAARRD Industry Strategic S&T Program (ISP) Manager for Rubber, conducted the second round of testing of the rubber nanosensor in Ipil and Titay, ZamboangaSibugay and Tampilisan, Zamboangadel Norte.

Spearheaded by Jose Isagani Janairo, associate professor of DLSU, the testing was done as part of the monitoring and evaluation activities under the project, “Nanosensors for Rubber Quality Assessment.”

Farmers and traders selling coagulated rubber in bagsakan (consolidation) centers combine different ages and batches of rubber cup lumps into one big bulk called “field lumps.” They also use sulfuric acid, commonly known as battery solution, in coagulating rubber cup lumps and placing them in between the field lumps.

Rubber cup lumps coagulated with battery solution absorb water, thus making the field lumps heavier and more expensive when sold. This is a malpractice that the rubber industry aims to eradicate. Battery solution not only weakens the quality of rubber when processed, but also threatens human health and the environment.

The rubber field lumps at the bagsakan centers were randomly tested to determine the rubber nanosensor‘s accuracy in differentiating cup lumps formed using formic/acetic acid (the recommended solution), from cup lumps formed using battery solution.

Based from test results, the sensor can clearly determine the part of the field lumps containing battery solution. Local officials, rubber farmers, rubber traders/dealers, buyers and processors were convinced of the accuracy of the sensor in determining which among the rubber cup lumps were coagulated with battery solution.

Rubber sellers and buyers were immediately informed of the results. In turn, the local rubber bagsakan center technician informed the rubber sellers and buyers that they would enforce the ordinance as soon as a unit of the sensor becomes available. They were also advised to either use formic/acetic acid as a coagulating agent, or employ the natural method of drying after harvesting latex.

The team also tested the sensor in two of the biggest rubber crumb processing plants in Zamboanga Peninsula—the Standeco Rubber Processing Plant in Tampilisan, Zamboangadel Norte and the Philippine Pioneer Rubber Products Corp. in Naga, Zamboanga Sibugay.

The sensor’s design shall now be finalized by the DLSU project team. They will produce 20 units of the rubber nanosensor for distribution to the major stakeholders, mostly in Zamboanga Peninsula where the use of battery solution is very prevalent. It is hoped that with the availability of the equipment, rubber farmers will totally abandon the use of battery solution in latex coagulation.

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