Hope For Renewable Energy

All this started with coconuts. Coconuts are the answer to everything in the Philippines. How? Dr. Julian Banzon’s researches will answer that question within a snap of your fingers. Coconut is very abundant in the Philippines and it is for that reason why Dr. Banzon utilized this fruit to help alleviate the rising starvation rate and food shortage in the Philippines. Not only the food shortage problem but his research soon ventures out into alternative fuels that will help save the environment.

How?

He studied the coconut. Through various methods and researches, Dr. Banzon was able to find different uses for the coconut which would then lead to many more researches in the coming years. He found ways to extract coconut oil which had plenty of uses and eventually lead to him finding a way to make coconut oil as an alternative fuel for out ever increasing usage of petroleum and other gasoline.

Dr. Julian Banzon was a Philippine chemist who was awarded the title of National Scientist in 1986 by President Ferdinand Marcos for his work regarding the chemical extraction of oil from the common coconut to provide a renewable source of energy. His work provides an avenue for local and foreign scientists to continue research on this field of study, revolutionizing the scientific community and the modern world.

EARLY LIFE & EDUCATION

Julian came from a rather large family of seventeen children from the province of Bataan. His parents, Manuel and Arcadia, mentioned that Julian was always interested in chemistry. According to them, his inspiration came from World War I (which Julian creatively called “The Chemistry War”) when he read about the changing colors of the soldiers’ uniforms. This lead to his dedicated reading of science books and his increased knowledge of chemistry at a tender, young age. Driven by his passion, Julian left his hometown to pursue further studies in the University of The Philippines where he took up a formal Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry. He was one of the seven people to graduate in his program.

He first took on the role of an assistant instructor at the Agricultural Chemistry Department of the UP College of Agriculture (UPCA) but left it shortly afterward when another teaching position opened up in the Physical Chemistry program. He later became a full-time instructor setting himself apart from the rest of the faculty his age. This led to the University sending him to Iowa State University to attain a doctorate in the same field.

His dissertation, titled “Fermentative Utilization of Cassava Butyl Acetonic Fermentation and Production of Alcohol”, concerned studies that are still particularly relevant today. When he returned to the Philippines, he continued his teaching duties despite economic dislocation caused by the war. That time, he came back to serve as the department chair for chemistry and served for seven years before moving on to accept membership at the National Academy of Science and Technology, the highest scientific advisory body in the country.

RESEARCH, CONTRIBUTION & IMPACT

Dr. Banzon’s work dealt with the production of ethyl esters, coming from two Philippine indigenous crops, sugarcane and coconut. He was also the one who devised processes for extracting coconut oil through chemical means rather and improved physical means. His interest in the use of local materials grew after he conducted a study involving tractor engine tests using gasanol, gastarla, pure kerosene and mixtures of pure kerosene and crude oil as fuel with Dr. Teodoro, a fellow professor.

The Philippines, along with several other countries, continuously suffers from poorly allocated food and fuel supplies. This resulted to the increasing significance of Banzon’s study. He regarded the coconut as a, to quote, “food supplier that people should be profoundly thankful for” and “the only viable crop in the Pacific Islands”

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because of its capability to grow in various climates and areas. He conducted studies on the coconut’s properties, composition, and nature such as its meat and water. He also studied the fatty acids of desiccated coconut and copra.

His method of separation of coconut oil could be done in two ways, one wet and one dry. The wet process, being the simpler, was usually conducted first by physical means. Dr. Banzon utilized an automotive hydraulic jack with a screw added on top of the jack that gives a higher pressure. The oil produced was directly consumable and even made by-products such as coconut skim milk that was used in several isolated villages.

Dr. Banzon also worked on the production of ethyl esters. He said that the coconut palm should be used as a source of fuel because the use of firewood and liquefied petroleum was getting more and more expensive and scarce in supply. He was a strong supporter of the use of this crop because it would be able to supply a good percentage of the Philippine population with energy. He demonstrated the liquid fuel derived from coconuts to be an effective diesel substitute to liquid fuels. However, the feasibility of its widespread use at the time was rather low because of its relatively high cost.

In addition to his aforementioned works, Dr. Banzon also conducted research and studies addressing the country’s dwindling food supply and potential increase in levels of starvation. With this, he suggested three things. First, that we utilize food technology to produce synthetic rice made from materials like cassava, thus satisfying the cereal needs of the population. Second, the we use food technology to produce filed, vegetable, toned, and synthetic milk. Lastly, that we make use of meat analog and various types of protein to address the shortage of protein in the typical Filipino’s diet.

Finally, Dr. Banzon also contributed studies that explored the various uses of coconut milk such as its reconstituting into nonfat dried milk that were put into either a beverage, evaporated, or sweetened condensed type of milk. This milk had heightened protein and growth factors as well as a slight coconut taste.

His work and contribution serve as particularly important because it addressed pressing issues that are still quite prevalent today. Many Filipinos still go through problems of a poor diet and lessened purchasing power due to the exponentially increasing prices of fuels.

While these problems haven’t been completely solved yet, Dr. Banzon allowed for opportunities for more modern scientists to build on the legacies he left behind and improve the overall development of the country (as well as other countries if research permits).

Unlike many other scientist who have been described as selfish, Dr. Banzon was the opposite. He was a caring man who really dedicated his time and effort not only in his research, but also to the improvement of science education and the quality of life for the average Filipino citizen.

His numerous contributions have garnered him several awards and recognition.

“Aside from being accorded the honor of National Scientist in 1986, he was also conferred the following: Distinguished Service Award, Integrated Chemists of the Philippines (1980); Merit Award (Physical Science), Society for the Advancement of Research (1980); Chemist of the year award, professional regulation commission (1978); PHILSUGIN Award for Research, crop science society of the Philippines (1976); and certificate of merit for outstanding research work on “Extraction of Coconut Oil,” Office of the Secretary, Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources (1959)” (Andaya, 2000)

All this, did not go to his head, however. Dr. Julian Banzon remained to be a very warm, humble, and sincere man. He was always accommodating to his students and loved his wife, Vivencia Fernandez, and his ten children with all his heart.

He was regarded by his colleague, Professor Victoria Hernandez, as “one in a million” because of his sincere and selfless character. It was only right that he was awarded the title of National Scientist for his impact to the community, the scientific world, and his image that continues to inspire young scientists to follow his footsteps in changing the world while doing what they love.

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Main Source: National Scientists of The Philippines 1978-1998 (Andaya, 2000)

F. Asuncion, L. Calanog, F. Maleval, R. Sison, P. Tabuena, M. Tan, K. Tiambeng

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