The world is experiencing an epidemic of sleep deprivation; we’re awake at night and half asleep during the day.
In the end, no matter how many scientific advances are achieved, if the human being does not sleep enough, he is unable to lead a balanced life. It was one of the arguments used yesterday by the scientist Amador Menéndez at a conference organized by Tribuna Ciudadana on the occasion of the celebration in 2022 of the International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development.
Menéndez, a researcher at the Idonial Technological Center and coordinator of LA NUEVA ESPAÑA Science Week, spoke of the important role that new self-repairing materials or disciplines such as nanotechnology and nanophotonics are called to play in the future.
But above all, “it is necessary to adjust the biological rhythms to the technological ones”, according to Pedro Sánchez Lazo, president of Tribuna and emeritus professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Oviedo, who highlighted the dissemination capacity of Amador Menéndez, “making the complex understandable in a simple way”.
Epidemic of lack of sleep
The speaker, who for a time researched at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, warned about the “epidemic of lack of sleep” suffered by part of the population.
“This society spends the nights awake and the days half asleep; we must make technology converge with biological rhythms, to preserve health, which has always been regulated by sunlight,” he said. For this, the scientist explained that the artificial light of the future will be dynamic, and will change its intensity and tonality throughout the day, imitating the sun.
The audience, which filled the Club, did not miss a single comma of Menéndez’s explanations, who even showed glass capable of capturing the sun’s radiation. Numerous members of the scientific and university community listened in their seats, such as María Fernández, CSIC delegate in Asturias; José González Rubio, dean of the College of Chemists; José Augusto Suárez, dean of the College of Mining Engineers, or Santos González, emeritus professor of Algebra.
Great challenge in health
In addition to solving the problem of lack of sleep, Amador Menéndez highlighted as one of the great challenges in health to achieve chemotherapy on demand, which only attacks malignant cells, as Isaac Asimov advocated in his book “Amazing Journey”. which was made into a movie. “The writer was talking about nanoparticles against cancer that kill selectively; we are getting closer to achieving it, with techniques such as photopharmacology, which is based on the use of drugs activated by light,” he explained.
The need to achieve green energy, combat climate change, achieve sustainable cities and achieve intelligent materials that even self-repair were other issues addressed by Menéndez, who is now researching in the field of nanophotonics, a discipline that pursues the design of materials and devices for capturing, guiding and manipulating light, which finds applications in different fields.
“The materials of the future will be intelligent and will dialogue with their environment, giving specific responses to specific stimuli,” said Menéndez. “Nanotechnology is engineering on an atomic and molecular scale that by grouping atoms like Lego pieces makes it possible to build those materials with controlled properties and for specific purposes on demand,” he added.
Materials have played a crucial role throughout the history of mankind. “There is talk of the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, the Iron Age… but this era we are in does not stand out for any particular material, but rather for the ability to manufacture materials with the desired characteristics depending on the application,” he stressed.
Efficient use of solar energy
The scientific popularizer showed the crucial role of these new materials when it comes to making efficient use of solar energy. “The sun has great potential; a single hour of sunshine would be enough to supply humanity’s energy demands for a whole year. The challenge is to be able to efficiently capture all that radiation that it sends us,” he said.
To alleviate this problem, in Idonial and in other laboratories around the world they play “catch the rainbow”. “In short, it is about developing a cocktail of different materials, so that together they are capable of capturing the different colors or wavelengths that the king sun sends us,” Menéndez added.
This technology, known as “luminescent solar concentrator” will make it possible to turn the windows of houses into small photoelectric power plants, capable of trapping sunlight to transform it into electricity. “It could go a long way on the road to near-zero energy buildings,” he concluded.
Read the original version of this post on the website of La Nueva España.