Science fair winner Angelina Arora of Australia demonstrated a biodegradable plastic made from natural material.
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA What were you doing when you were a teenager?
Riding bikes, watching movies, learning trigonometry perhaps? Angelina Arora, from Sydney Girls High School, is doing all these things, but Angelina Arora is not your average teenager.
Arora explained to National Geographic the moment when she first understood the impact plastic was having on the environment. One day when she was a young girl, she went out shopping to the local supermarket with her mother when she noticed that her mother paid for plastic bags. Curious, she asked the cashier why. The cashier responded that it was to deter people from using plastic bags and therefore help save the planet.
This idea, and Arora’s strong love of science, is what guided her to create a sophisticated biodegradable plastic at age 16. However, the journey was not an easy one. After experimenting and failing with different kinds of organic waste, such as banana peels, Arora turned to prawns (shrimp) after noticing the similarities between their shells and plastic.
“I looked at prawns and thought what makes their shells look like plastic? Maybe I can take that out and use it someway and bind it to make a plastic-like material,” Arora explained to National Geographic in an interview.
“I extracted a carbohydrate called chitin and chemically converted it into chitosan and mixed it with fibroin, which is a protein in silk cocoons.”
She found that the combination of the two organic products created a plastic-like material that decomposed 1.5 million times faster than commercial plastics, completely breaking down within 33 days.
Her invention won her the Innovator to Market Award in the 2018 BHP Billiton Foundation Science and Engineering Awards and international recognition at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, where she won 4th in the world, as well as a comprehensive scholarship to a prestigious U.S. university. She competed against students from over 81 countries.
“The world is changing faster than many of us can keep up with, but science, technology, engineering, and maths can guide that future through innovation,” CSIRO’s Chief Executive Larry Marshall explained in a press release.
“We know that the achievements of the winners and finalists will […]