Health, Science & Technology


Turning Rice Husks into Gold
In the realm of scientific breakthroughs, Professor Dr Halimaton Hamdan stands as a beacon of innovation. Professor Halimaton's pursuit of chemistry took her to Indiana University and Marshall University in the US, culminating in a PhD in Physical Chemistry at Cambridge University. Her artistic inclinations found harmony in the balanced science of chemistry, where creativity and innovation are essential.

Attached to Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) since 1981, Professor Halimaton’s contribution to the field of science is in discovering a cost effective way to turn discarded rice husks into Maerogel (Malaysian aerogel), which can be used for various purposes.
Maerogel has been hailed as an exciting breakthrough by experts and Professor Halimaton has been recognised worldwide for her research. From construction to pharmaceuticals, this discovery which is soon to be commercialised, has been hailed as a true innovation, and one which will make Malaysia justifiably proud.

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Professor Richard Ernst, Nobel Prize winner for Chemistry in 1991, visited Professor Halimaton at her laboratory in UTM in 2004

The Maerogel Revolution
Professor Halimaton's pioneering work in Zeolite and nanostructured Materials technology catapulted her into the limelight. Her expertise, with over 15 years dedicated to researching silica-based materials, led to a groundbreaking discovery – turning discarded rice husks into Maerogel.

Inspired by a television documentary highlighting the challenges of disposing of rice husks, Professor Halimaton embarked on a mission to transform this overlooked material. The result was Maerogel, a cost-effective alternative to traditional aerogels, offering myriad applications. This discovery, nine years in the making, reduces production costs by 80%, opening doors to commercial viability.

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Overcoming Challenges in Innovation
Professor Halimaton's journey was not without hurdles. At the turn of the millennium, when nanotechnology was still a nascent field in Malaysia, convincing funding institutions and the public of Maerogel's potential proved challenging. The material's appearance as a simple white powder made it difficult for people to grasp its revolutionary properties.

Professor Halimaton and her team dedicated eight months to create Maerogel, matching its properties with commercially available counterparts. Over the course of nine years, from laboratory development to precommercialisation, she has been devoted to advancing Maerogel. The production process employs Green technology, ensuring a clean, smokeless operation with minimal energy consumption.

Despite initial scepticism, Professor Halimaton's perseverance and belief in Maerogel's potential paid off. One teaspoon of Maerogel, the lightest known solid, can fill up a football field. Its unique properties, likened to "frozen smoke," offer extensive surface area, making it ideal for applications ranging from construction to pharmaceuticals. Maerogel’s potential lies in coating walls of homes, which could dramatically reduce the need for heating and air conditioning.

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Maerogel has all the properties of commercial aerogels

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It has taken nine years to make Maerogel a reality

A Scientific Legacy Revealed
Professor Halimaton's Maerogel breakthrough, a convergence of science and environmental sustainability, holds the promise of transforming industries and impacting millions of lives worldwide. As she ventures into the commercialisation phase with the construction of a dedicated plant underway and production slated for early 2010, a new chapter begins, driven by the potential of Maerogel to revolutionise diverse fields. Professor Halimaton's recognition with the Merdeka Award echoes the nation's maturing appreciation for the pivotal role of science in Malaysia's development.

Additionally, Professor Dr. Halimaton has garnered widespread recognition both locally and internationally for her outstanding contributions. In 2008, she was featured in the Marquis Who's Who in Science & Engineering 10th Anniversary Edition and the 2000 Outstanding Scientists – International Biographical Centre, Cambridge, UK (2008/09). UTM celebrated her research prowess in 2008, declaring her as Tokoh Penyelidik UTM (UTM Research Figure) for her significant achievements in the field.

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Professor Halimaton is confident there will be no shortage of rice husks for the sustained production of Maerogel.
The information in this award recipient's profile is accurate to the best of our knowledge as of the time the award was presented. Any subsequent changes, updates, or developments in the individual's life or achievements may not be reflected in this profile.
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