For all the noise generated over our children being bad at spelling, maths and generally falling behind internationally, we are reminded — every so often — about how our kids are changing the world.
Fifteen-year-old Angelina Arora is a student at Sydney High School. Two years ago she started investigating bioplastics.
Angelina, like most kids, is immensely concerned about the environment. So when she saw the huge number of plastic bags being carried out of a Sydney supermarket, the first thing that came to her mind was how the environment was being damaged. She then resolved to look for biodegradable alternatives.
Experimenting with compounds made from everyday household items (such as glycerin, corn starch, potato starch and vinegar), Angelina created six bioplastics and put them through five tests, including testing for clarity, endurance and decomposition.
But each of these materials produced a plastic that wasn’t quite right.
The young student then found herself at the local fish and chip shop, looking at all the discarded seafood waste (piles of crab and prawn shells, all destined for the bin). It struck her that this could be the kind of thing she was looking for.
Her consistent and well-researched experiments soon yielded results when she succeeded in using shrimp shells to create a strong, light and biodegradable plastic.
Prawn shells consist of a hard yet flexible protein called chitosan, a version of chitin that is found in fungal cells, insect exoskeletons, spider webs and crustacean shells.
As a result of her work, Angelina picked up the first prize in chemistry at the STANSW Young Scientist Awards in 2016.
Now her shrimp bioplastic will be representing Australia at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania alongside over 1,800 high school students from 75 countries.
She’s was also a finalist in the 2017 BHP Billiton Foundation Science and Engineering Awards. And has now partnered with a CSIRO mentor to develop a completely biodegradable plastic made from prawn shell and sticky protein from the silk of silkworms.
‘I’m driven by wanting to help – whether it’s people, the environment or animals.’ she said.
Now, who doesn’t like that.
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