The Real Science behind the Heroes!

So now that you know a bit more about Heroes of Science (if you don’t, click here) it’s time to check out the Science in the experiments shown in the first two episodes of HOS!

Episode 1: Biomass-to-chemical1

The idea behind this research project was to convert food or plant waste such as coconut husks, corn pulp, dried leaves into polymer. Polymers can be turned into useful bio-degradable plastic products such as plastic sheets and strings as shown in the video.

A*STAR researchers studied that microorganisms from soil serve as ‘reactors’ by allowing the conversion of food wastes into lactic acid. In this analysis, researchers collected soil samples around Singapore. They then screened it for the microorganisms that produce the highest amount of lactic acid and extracted strains such as Bacillus coagulans to use in the experiment.

Episode 2: Marine Industry

The objective of this research was to create greener and safer ships for the marine industry.

To do so, A*STAR scientists investigated natural nanotechnology solutions such as those found in the ocean to create slippery like surfaces on ships.

2The scientists try to solve the fouling problem related to barnacles. Barnacles are like ‘little rocks’ that attach to the ships’ surface. They often attach themselves on ships’ surfaces and caused ships to travel slower. Having, barnacles ‘growing’ on ships’ surfaces also compromise the safety as it weighs down the ship. Thus, it causes the ships to be unstable especially during stormy weather. Most importantly, because of barnacles, ships will have to be repainted and cleaned constantly which is very costly for shipping companies.

To find a solution, scientists get inspired by natural nanotechnologies such as those found in crabs. Scientists have noticed the antifouling ability in crab shells and thought that they could try designing it in the coatings to prevent organisms from growing on the ships’ surface.

Scientists of A*STAR studied the crab’s shell under the microscope and found out that although it appeared to be smooth, the surface of the shell was actually rough as there are very tiny structures covering the shell. They therefore tried to mimic these tiny nanostructures found on crab shells, with patterning techniques known as nanoimprint technology, to recreate such antifouling patterns on the ships. With this technology, barnacles are unable to attach onto the ship surfaces and can easily slip off the surfaces of ships. Ships don’t have to be repainted as often, leading to considerable savings for companies!

This article was written by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), as part of A*STAR’s Science@50’s events. A*STAR is a lead public sector agency of Singapore that spearheads economic oriented research to advance scientific discovery and develop innovative technology. Through open innovation, they collaborate on many projects to benefit society.

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