Lucille Abad's invention is one of the 5 finalists for projects in the field of non-energy application of nuclear technologies at the recently held World Atomic Energy Expo Awards 2019 in Sochi, Russia.

FILIPINO-MADE. Lucille Abad of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute has long been studying carrageenan, a natural preservative extracted from processed gulamang dagat. Photo courtesy of Shaira Panela.

SOCHI, Russia – Red seaweed or gulamang dagat are not just harvested for food – they're for agriculture too.

A Filipino nuclear scientist has been making the country proud by using an additive from gulamang dagat as a "vitamin" for crops.

Lucille Abad of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute has long been studying carrageenan, a natural preservative extracted from processed gulamang dagat. Abad puts carrageenan under a machine that emits electron beams to break down carrageenan chains into miniscule particles, like turning a huge ball into dust. This radiation-modified carrageenan is then sprayed on crops like rice.

"Because the carrageenan particles are smaller through radiation, they can easily penetrate the leaves of the plants. We think that carrageenan promotes the formation of plant growth hormones," Abad said in an interview.

Based on studies conduted by Abad and her colleagues at PNRI, rice crops treated with this radiation-modified carrageenan are healthier and have better yield.

"The first test that we did was during the time of Typhoon Lando in 2015 in Bulacan. We sprayed irradiated carrageenan in one area. After the typhoon left, we had found that those rice plants that were sprayed with irradiated carrageenan remained standing amid strong winds and heavy rains. We also found that the root system of these plants were stronger compared to those which we didn't touch," she said.

"If you have very healthy plants, definitely, it will follow, that the yield is healthy as well," she continued.

Her invention has won several accolades both in the Philippines and abroad, the latest of which is a certificate as one of the 5 finalists for the category "Non-energy Nuclear Technologies: Improving the quality of life" at the ATOMEXPO Awards 2019 held on April 15 in Sochi, Russia.

This international professional award acknowledges the contribution to the development and use of nuclear technologies for the benefit of humanity.

"I didn't think we would make it as one of the finalists. All the rest of the projects they showed were advanced applications of nuclear technologies. This project was simple," Abad said.

Fifty-two companies from 25 countries attended the ATOMEXPO AWARDS competition, including Argentina, Bangladesh, Bolivia, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Mongolia, Morocco, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Russia, Spain, Turkey, the United States of America, Uzbekistan, and Zambia. There were also the projects of the International Atomic Energy Agency and cross-regional projects.

An independent international award panel consisting of world experts in the nuclear industry evaluated each project from a professional point of view. The panel identified 17 finalists, with 5 of them selected as the best projects in various categories including Innovation for the Future, Development of Human Capital, Public Acceptability, Creative Energy, and Non-energy Nuclear Technology.

The ATOMEXPO Awards were held during the 11th International ATOMEXPO Forum, where topical issues of innovative development based on nuclear technologies are discussed.

The forum, a global industry discussion event with the participation of heads of government agencies, large companies, public organizations, and international experts, has been held since 2009. Rosatom, Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation, has provided a platform for the forum. –

Source: Rappler