Saturday, July 13, 2013

A 16 year old girl, Elif Bilgin, of Istanbul Turkey is the winner of the 2013 $50,000 Science in Action award, a part of the third annual Google Science Fair. The award honors a project which could render an effective big difference by dealing with an environmental, health or resources challenge; it needs to be innovative, simple to implement as well as reproducible in other communities. 

Bilgin put in two years toiling away on her project to build up a bioplastic from removing banana peels, experiencing 10 unsuccessful tests of plastics that weren't strong enough or that decayed quickly. She was undaunted. Just as she put it in her project description: “Even Thomas Edison stated, ‘I have not failed. I have just found 10, 000 ways that won’t work.’” At last, in her final two tests, she generated plastics with the characteristics she wanted, and it did not decay. 

The ingredients to generate Bilgin’s plastic are somewhat harmless. As she had written in her admission materials, “it is possible to say that one could do it at home.” In her study, she discovered that starch as well as cellulose is used somewhere else in the bioplastic industry (for instance from the skin of mangoes) and also made the leap that banana peels could possibly be perfect feedstock sources as well. She desires that the usage of the bioplastic could possibly replace a few of the petroleum-based plastics being used nowadays for this kind of applications as insulation for electric cables as well as for cosmetic prostheses. The health application is probably not surprising to individuals who know Bilgin; she really wants to go to medical school someday (“science is my calling,” she wrote in her entry). 

Bilgin is also a finalist in the overall Google Science Fair for the 15-16-year-old category, and will fly, with the additional 14 contestants, to the company’s Mountain View, Calif campus for the awards event in September. The schools of the Google Science Fair finalists will receive digital subscriptions to Scientific American as part of their prize.


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