Belonging to the campus of Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology (Ho Chi Minh City National University), the laboratory of Assoc. It is a place where every day female scientists nurture their enthusiasm with the path of finding hidden values from seemingly discarded things: agricultural wastes, to create clean, bio-sourced fuels. study, in accordance with the philosophy of respecting nature for sustainable development.
Before being interested in agricultural waste as a scientific topic, do you have any memories associated with the “nostalgia for the countryside” mentality?
Although my parents are not farmers, but during my childhood, I was attached to the field following the family’s “swimming and shifting” steps: from Bien Hoa to Phuoc Long, to Dong Nai, to Binh Thuan… That day was there. , almost everyone’s house is assigned a pole of land to improve, our children are excited to drop their bags outside of school hours, busy in the garden picking corn and sowing beans. In the season of bean plucking, students are also allowed to take a break from school to help their parents with the harvest, weed the school yard in the summer, or go to see the adults reap the harvest. I love straw probably from there…
The memory of the countryside in me is always something very warm and dear about a time of poverty without feeling extreme, hard not to feel sad, only feeling happy and happy.
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Le Thi Kim Phung and team research composite airgel products and other materials from solid waste
“The grain of rice feeds us all / The warmth alone is as passionate as fire / The rustic flavor of the rice / Where is easy to share for everyone…“You must still remember the “warmth of the straw” in the famous poem of poet Nguyen Duy we used to learn? And what warmth did the straw bring to your craft?
I know and love that poem. When I was in school, I studied very well in literature, and for some reason I later followed the natural sciences.
Straw is familiar, the warmth of familiarity, is a place where rural students come home from school and have the habit of throwing their bags into a haystack on the side of the road to play; baby food such as burnt rice, fish pot with pepper… also smelled of rice straw; is the smoke of burning copper that reminds the homeland in the memories of the children far from home… Every farmer can be said to be a “scientist”, when they always grasp the core of nature and always know how to take advantage of things. thought to give up: betel nut and areca are both a medicinal problem; When burning rice straw, it helps to create more humus, return fertile soil to the soil, and at the same time, it helps to eliminate harmful microorganisms for plants. But straw when burned on a large scale can also cause air pollution for villages or suburban urban areas because it produces a large amount of CO emissions.2.
That’s when scientists like us who think a lot about agriculture like us “get into work”. Straw, rice husks…, or more broadly, agricultural wastes, things that we are used to throwing away when eating or processing fruits: apple peel, pineapple calyx, pineapple peel, mangosteen skin… (while it contains up to 70-80% of the content, antioxidants are beneficial to health), both wasteful and stressful for the environment. Those seemingly worthless things, when viewed from a scientific perspective, can produce clean ingredients to help create product chains of biological origin – an inevitable trend when natural sources fossil fuels are gradually depleted and create unpredictable consequences for the environment. Do you believe that a shoe sole or insole can also contribute to global warming? It is no coincidence that orders from reputable European shoe brands have recommended that a minimum of 30% of the materials used in each pair of shoes be of biological origin. Specifically, the silica material for the production of shoe soles, previously of fossil origin, is now required to be of biological origin…
After all, what belongs to nature must be returned to nature. The product development direction that I and my associates pursue is also in that rule. Such is the nature, our job is to present the truth about it, bring in knowledge to find the core and call it right. That’s why I love this quote: “The value of creativity is not novelty, it is honesty” (Thomas Carlyle).
What have nature and the science of it taught us?
Everything is born in this world for a reason. True to the famous verse: “There is no boring person in the world / Every destiny contains a history”. Up to now, after a long hard search for overlooked values, I believe that nothing in this world is superfluous, if we know how to appreciate it, filter the best of it. it and know how to navigate it to the bright area necessary for its cyclic life… When teaching students how to make valuable products out of waste, I am happy to give them a small lesson. : never ignore undisplayed or hidden values. The value lies in the user’s own eyes and filters. Knowing enough is enough, but knowing the lack, knowing the excess, is also enough!
Don’t support bug fixes?
Error correction is necessary, for example in genetic engineering, to some extent. Or as one of my research directions is to modernize oriental medicine remedies, besides respecting folk experiences, it is also necessary to know how to remove bad compounds… But basically, I always care. concept: scientific understanding is to develop and operate better, not to eliminate, not to upset nature, not to go against the laws of nature’s development.
Life, say give In the end, it’s still a balance between excess and lack. Are you sure there is nothing superfluous in this world?
Excess is actually infinity and is always a relative concept. 24 hours for one person is enough or superfluous, but for the other it is short, so that there is never downtime. Life now seems to be more concerned with excess than lack of: overweight children, excess utilities, excess information… But if we calm down, we will see: the end of excess is lack. In particular, the most worrying is the lack of motivation, dedication and a filter strong enough to prevent the attack of “malicious codes” that are rife online as well as in life.
Has your path to science ever struggled between excess and lack?
When I first graduated, I used to lack money because the salary of teachers was not enough to cover my life and help my parents take care of my two children to go to the city to study, so I was forced to leave school, join a business and lose my life. 9 months of living in an environment of “light work, high salary” but almost completely lost the motivation to create new things. If I could bear the lack of money, or the lack of family and homeland, as I did when I later studied in the UK, then my options for a scientific path would have been more direct and definitive; make science more focused, more convenient, in foreign labs, which are synchronous in terms of crews, equipment, and a perfect closed process from input to output… But think again, 9 months of working for me Although that business is sometimes tasteless, it is not meaningless because it helps to expand their eyes on the output of inventions, the needs of the business… And whether the country is developing, there is a lack of things. The necessary and sufficient conditions, the more motivated I am to overcome difficulties, discover my hidden possibilities…
In times of confusion and creative impasse, how did you find a way to “reinvent” your creative inspiration?
In my research career, I also had a couple of “restart” times. Doing experimental research like us, the most important thing is to have a laboratory. There have been a couple of times when I built a research team, research facilities and then moved, started from scratch, bought each test tube, stirring rod. To me, it’s like a bird that has lost its nest. Very frustrated and unmotivated. Each time, what remains is the inner strength of oneself, the power of intellect, knowledge and passion for science. I worked hard to rebuild and again made better projects, stronger development. I always believe that the greater the potential energy, the stronger the motivation – that is, the more deprived, the more difficult, the stronger the human creativity.
In addition to their own efforts, what is the meaning of society’s cooperation in the context of doing scientific research in Vietnam?
The VINIF (Vingroup Innovation Fund) project has really helped the team create a research platform for the direction of airgel materials. Investing in R&D (research and development) right at the enterprise, or funding R&D units to develop background technologies like VINIF all contribute to promoting the development of science and technology. of a country.
What philosophy of life can be found from the specific technical terms associated with your work: freeze-drying technology, fluidized bed technology…?
The solid state, when converted to a gas (instead of a liquid), will ensure that the structure of the material is preserved, which is the value of freeze-drying technology. The most important thing for insulation is to contain as much air as possible. The lighter the hollow material, the better its surface has a chance to score thanks to its richer absorption capacity. Wastewater treatment, oil spills, textile dyeing … need materials with high porosity because of that. The emptiness, accordingly, can be seen as an opportunity to be filled, to be absorbed into the new, the other, the outside. Being creative, for me, before being filled is also very necessary, emptying yourself to open up to new things.
The fluidized bed technique also offers a different philosophy from conventional thinking. In the three states of existence of a material: static (stationary), entangled (pushed up), suspended (pushed up, dropped down, pushed up again, and so on…) then the new suspension is said to be the state. the most stable state, as it helps the material to retain the most stable porosity to have the greatest chance of exposure to air.
Do you often have trouble sleeping, before creative awakenings? What dreams often come back?
Because we always want to spread ourselves across many jobs and diverse interests, and corresponding to different product orientations will require different blocks of knowledge; plus the perfectionism… so a lot of times when I’m stressed, my memory is impaired… because I always feel like I don’t have enough time for the things I want to do.
There are also sleepless nights because… bored, when their creative passions find it difficult to find outputs and touch points with manufacturers and corporate culture: the benefit to the environment is not proportional to the profit of the company. businesses, so here and there there is a lot of indifference; The philosophy of sustainable development has not necessarily received the consensus and companion of the whole society and policy makers to be able to come up with synchronous solutions…
I often dream that I can fly. Or go to a stream with a lot of fish, just reach out and catch it. And every time I lose sleep, I always comfort myself that: “We still have a million nights to sleep in the ground”, as someone else once said…