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

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' 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.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs