Angelina Arora is a 15-year-old budding scientist who sitting at a fish shop, discovered kilograms of discarded shells, and took them to her school’s science lab, and started experimenting.
She eventually found a way to turn them into biodegradable plastic. “The dream is to basically have every single plastic in the world made out of my plastic,” she said and hopes that this technique will be used to make plastic bags at supermarkets around Australia.
One year ago, Angelina won first prize in chemistry for her age bracket at the NSW Young Scientist Awards for another plastic discovery made with cornstarch. After she won, she was introduced to several scientists at CSIRO, who are now her mentors on the current project.
Prawn shells consist of a hard yet flexible protein which is called chitin (pronounced ky-ten). With her mentors’ guidance and a litre of hydrochloric acid, Angelina managed to extract the chitin from the shells. “It’s the same protein that spiders use to make webs. It’s very sticky. When you mix it with chitin it produces a fabric that is flexible and strong and exhibits all the properties you want in plastic,” she said. Angelina wants to be a role model for other young girls considering a career in science. Her contribution in the field of science at the age of 15 is already remarkable. More power to you, Angelina.