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

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid