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Banana-Peel Plastic, Wastewater Fuel Cell, Body-Heat Flashlight: Meet the Science in Action Finalists, Part 1

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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On June 27, the winner of the second annual $50,000 Scientific American Science in Action Award, powered by the Google Science Fair, will be announced. In this blog series we ask the students behind the projects to describe their work and themselves. First up, a trio of young women from India, Canada and Turkey.

Name (Age): Elif Bilgin (16)

Elif Bilgin

Country: Turkey

Project: Going Bananas! Using Banana Peels in the Production of Bio-Plastic as a Replacement for Traditional Petroleum-Based Plastic

Summary: With the addition of a few chemicals, banana peels can be made into a bio-plastic suitable for such applications as cosmetic prostheses or the electrical insulation of cables.

How does your project impact the community you grew up in?
I grew up in Istanbul, which is a very big and crowded city of Turkey. With so many people using electricity on a daily basis—whether it is to charge their cell phones or to use their TV—a lot of cables must be used throughout the city. My project makes it possible to use banana peels, a waste material which is thrown away almost every day, in the electrical insulation of cables. This is both an extremely nature-friendly and cheap process, which has the potential to decrease the amount of pollution created due to the use of plastics, which contain petroleum derivatives.

Who are your scientific inspirations and why?
Marie Curie has been a major inspiration and a role model of mine, being a female scientist who devoted her life to her study of radioactivity, and challenging gender norms along the way. She is the best role model for aspiring young female scientists such as myself.

What is your favorite hobby?
My favorite hobby is playing volleyball. I am the captain of an Istanbul league team.

Do you have a favorite band or song?
My favorite band is Coldplay and my favorite song of theirs is “The Scientist.” Seriously.

 

S.M. Sambavi

Name (Age): S.M. Sambavi (13)

Country: India

Project: Simultaneous Biopesticide Wastewater Treatment and Bioelectricity Generation in Microbial Fuel Cell (MFC)

 

Summary: Microbial fuel cell uses biopesticide wastewater as a substrate and mangrove sediment as the inoculum providing microbes to convert chemical energy to electrical energy.

How does your project impact the community you grew up in?
Where I live there are several industrial factories, and the waste from these factories degrade the environment. There is also an acute shortage of electricity. So people suffer a lot.  By working on the principle of my project, I will try to find solutions that solve both of these issues so that our community will benefit and it will lead to a happy life in the future.

Who are your scientific inspiration and why?
First it’s my mom, who inspired me by telling me more about science. In my childhood, I went to her laboratory and attended conferences along with her. Next it is Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who motivates the young generation about scientific research and more.

If you could have dinner with any three scientists throughout time, whom would you choose?
I would choose scientists who are sharing their ideas and spending their energy on the welfare of the common man. So again it’s Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. I would also choose Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, because he wanted to eliminate hunger and poverty in the world, and Dr. Bruce E. Logan, who is doing a lot of research on the microbial fuel cell.

What is your favorite hobby?
Reading science facts and comics, painting and playing outdoor games with my friends.

 

Ann Makosinski

Name (Age): Ann Makosinski (15)

Country: Canada

Project: The Hollow Flashlight

 

Summary: Using the thermoelectric effect, Peltier tiles convert the heat of the human hand to electricity to power a flashlight without batteries or kinetic energy.

How does your project impact the community you grew up in?
My flashlight relies on a temperature differential of around 5 degrees Celsius to light up. Growing up in Canada, it can get pretty chilly at night, and my flashlight, with the great temperature differential between my hand and the cool night air, glows quite brightly! I also use it secretly sometimes when I’m reading after bedtime in my igloo. Just kidding! But honestly, more than 150,000 metric tons of single-use batteries are thrown away each year. It’s terrible! The majority of batteries are carelessly tossed into landfills, where the toxic chemicals inside the batteries leak into the ground, contaminating the soil with heavy metals.

Also, when I have gone to the Philippines, I noticed that a lot of people there simply cannot afford to pay for electricity in their house. My flashlight could be cheaply manufactured, and if some of these people could get their hands on it (quite literally, haha!), imagine what a difference that could be in their lives! Living our own lives without electricity is unimaginable, yet for lots of people around the world it is their reality. My flashlight, and its temperature differential concept, could change lives all around the world.

If you could travel through time, what one invention or discovery would you want to introduce 100 years ahead of schedule and why?
Electricity, and specifically AC electricity. Imagine how far advanced we would be! Also then people wouldn’t think Nikola Tesla was raving mad—imagine the things he could have created if electricity had existed for 100 years before him. Imagine what stage the world would be in now.

What is your favorite color?
My favorite color is probably blue or purple, but I am starting to lean a lot towards pink and black, because they were Elvis’s favorite colors (Big Elvis fan here…).

 

Rachel Scheer About the Author: Rachel Scheer is the Corporate PR Manager for Nature Publishing Group. She handles the PR efforts for Scientific American including writing press releases, facilitating partnerships and organizing media opportunities for the editorial team.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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