News / Asia

Indonesia’s New Scientists Focus on Local Solutions

Indonesia’s New Scientists Focus on Local Solutions
Indonesia’s New Scientists Focus on Local Solutions

This week Indonesian scientists met with American counterparts in Jakarta to trade ideas and seek support for projects such as plastic made from local plants, new fuel cells and heartier varieties of rice. 

Yessi Permana and Marsia Gustiananda research two very different topics - one biodegradable plastic, the other infectious diseases. But both are driven by a desire to see their country prosper from domestically developed technology.

The researchers were participants at the KAVLI Frontiers of Science Symposium outside Jakarta - one of a series of conferences partly sponsored by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences that bring together researchers from around the world to discuss advances and opportunities in their fields.

From bean to plastic

Permana is working to create a more environmentally-friendly plastic from the castor oil bean.  His bigger goal is to find more industrial uses for the vast number of tropical plants that thrive in Indonesia.  Creating plastic from plants will help the country manage its waste disposal problems.

“My focus is on utilizing Indonesian potential," Yessi said. "The biomass is so abundantly available here.  My motivation is doing this so I can say to the foreign companies, you want to come to my country do not export the raw materials, buy the end products.”

Although many companies now create plastic from renewable resources to avoid the use of chemical fuel, Permana says his research is unique because it uses non-edible materials that will not clog landfills.

Reworking the system

Permana worked in Japan after receiving his doctorate from the University of Tokyo, but says he was disappointed when he realized how international manufacturing supply chains frequently work.

The problem, as he saw it, was that raw materials brought from Indonesia were being converted into end products in Japan and then resold to the Indonesian market at a higher price.

The 36-year-old scientist says he decided to leave Japan and return to Indonesia after a realization he made while changing diapers.

“Since I have to change diapers at home, I saw wet tissues needed for baby and baby oil products and I can see the components on it consisted of the hydrogenated castor oil," Permana said.  "The problem is they bought that not from an Indonesian company, they bought that from a Japanese company as an end product.  And we just gave them the bean, the raw material."

Vaccines derived from genetic analysis

Marsia Gustiananda was also inspired by an ordinary event when she was living in the Netherlands and watched her son receive vaccinations that provide crucial protection against life-threatening diseases.

“This is something that really affects us, so it has a very broad social impact if you discover a vaccine that will work and prevent people from getting sick,” Gustiananda said.

Gustiananda is now a researcher at the Eijkman Institute, where she is using a new branch of genetic analysis called immunoinformatics to develop vaccines for influenza using computer models.

Indonesia’s health policies drew criticism from the international community in early 2007 when former Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari stopped sharing bird flu samples with the World Health Organization.  She said the move was motivated by fears that pharmaceutical companies in the West would use viruses from Indonesia to make vaccines that were too expensive for developing countries.

Gustiananda, who calls Indonesia a “hypermarket” for infectious diseases, says research on disease should not spark protectionism.

“Influenza is a pathogen that can spread all over the world very quickly, so I think it is very important for many nations to really work together to tackle this problem,” Gustiananda said.

Green technologies

Other Indonesia scientists at the conference are pursuing green technologies by researching renewable energy and exploiting local materials.  One project is trying to use zirconia, a tin byproduct, to create solid oxide fuel cells.  That technology is currently used to power highly efficient cell phone antennas that can be scaled for use in rural communities.  Another project was aimed at creating a new strain of rice that will better adapt to weather pattern transformations brought on by climate change.

Several participants urged the Indonesian government to encourage more such projects through greater funding for scientific research and development.

You May Like

Ukraine: Mysterious 'Roaming Tank' Reportedly Takes Aim at Smugglers

Ukraine's TV, print media, Facebook abuzz with reports a 'roaming tank' is on the loose, destroying vehicles of those involved in smuggling More

US Wildlife Service Begins Probe of Killing of Cecil the Lion

Minnesota man accused of killing beast is in hiding, has been asked to contact US officials; White House to review extradition petition More

Video Kerry Five-Nation Tour to Cover Security, Iran Nuclear Deal

Secretary of state will visit Egypt, Qatar, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam to discuss security issues, Iran nuclear deal, Trans-Pacific Partnership More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs