NSTDA highlights promising advances

NSTDA highlights promising advances

Mr Narong says vaccines and improved batteries are new tech trends.
Mr Narong says vaccines and improved batteries are new tech trends.

Covid-19 vaccines, rejuvenating drugs, Internet of Health Things (IoHT), vision communication and environmentally-friendly materials are among major technologies that could affect public and business sectors in the years to come, says the National Science Technology Development Agency (NSTDA).

"Advanced technologies are a core engine of the new economy and they could affect people's lives and society as a whole in the next 3-5 years," said NSTDA president Narong Sirilertworakul.

He was speaking at a recent virtual event, Thailand Tech Show 2020, which exhibited 290 technologies from 40 organisations.

Mr Narong said the first trend and top priority now is Covid-19 vaccines, which are vital to bringing the pandemic under control.

Four vaccine technologies are being developed, encompassing virus vaccines, protein-based vaccines, nucleic acid vaccines and viral vector vaccines. All but the virus vaccine are under development by NSTDA, he said.

The second trend concerns rejuvenating drugs, which could be a new hope as many countries have ageing societies, said Mr Narong.

In Thailand, rejuvenating drug REDGEMs has been developed by Dr Apiwat Mutirangura from Chulalongkorn University, said Mr Narong. The drug, once commercially produced, can be used to treat other skin diseases, such as wounds caused by diabetes or fire.

The third involves IoHT, in which Internet of Things technology is used for healthcare, Mr Narong said.

5G-based technologies will be broadly used in IoT devices, which could help monitor patients' health conditions, he said.

The NSTDA's Assistive Technology and Medical Device Research Center has developed wearable devices that have sensors to detect the movements of the elderly, said Mr Narong. If they fall, signals can be sent to their caretakers.

The fourth trend involves neuromorphic computer chips, which can process at fast speeds on a par with human brains and handle multi-dimensional data. In the next 10 years, neuromorphic chips could hold the key to boosting artificial intelligence (AI) capability, he said. They can be used in medical fields, such as performing diagnoses in a fast and accurate manner.

The fifth trend concerns vision communication technology, where advanced computing systems and AI are applied to allow computers to communicate like humans with their own logical thinking.

For example, in China and South Korea such technology is used for news presenter avatars.

The sixth relates to bio-based polyethylene furanoate, which can be used to produce plastic bottles. It can replace petroleum-based polyethylene terephthalate, which could potentially reduce the carbon footprint.

Another key incoming technology is non-lithium-ion batteries. In the US, zinc-ion batteries were found to be safer and have high power capacity, yet are one-third the cost of lithium batteries.

NSTDA's National Security and Dual-Use Technology Center is in the process of developing zinc-ion batteries with graphene materials and their performance is close to that of lithium-based batteries.

A battery research centre has been established through collaboration between the NSTDA, Chulalongkorn University and the Defence Science and Technology Department to develop advanced batteries with the use of domestically sought materials. Other key technologies include green hydrogen and nanocarbon materials.

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