January 16, 2021

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NSTDA spotlights tech advances in Thailand

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

Advanced technologies are expected to be the main driver of the new economy and are likely to affect people’s lives and society as a whole in the next 3-5 years, the President of NSTDA stated, speaking at the Thailand Tech Show 2020, which was held virtually and saw 290 technologies from 40 organisations exhibited.

The NSTDA President said the first trend and top priority currently is Covid-19 vaccines, which are vital to controlling the pandemic. Four vaccine technologies are being developed, namely virus vaccines, protein-based vaccines, nucleic acid vaccines and viral vector vaccines. All but the virus vaccine is under development by NSTDA, he said.

The second trend concerns rejuvenating drugs, which are promising for the many countries that have ageing societies. In Thailand, rejuvenating drug REDGEMs are being developed by Dr Apiwat Mutirangura from Chulalongkorn University. The drug, once commercially produced, can be used to treat other skin diseases, such as wounds caused by diabetes or burns caused by fires.

The third involves IoHT, in which Internet of Things technology is used for healthcare. 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 have developed wearable devices that have sensors to detect the movements of the elderly. 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 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 are 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.