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Omani students working on solution to global plastic problem

With proper support and mentorship, the next great minds providing solutions to global environmental problems may come from Oman and based on recent performance, Neam al Harasi and Duaa al Hashimi may just be two of the talented young environmentalist leading the way.

Both girls recently brought laurels to the Sultanate by winning fourth place at the prestigious Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF 2022).

The ISEF 2022 was held in the United States of America, Georgia from May 7 to 13 with the participation of 1700 pre-college students from over 80 countries showcasing different innovations and ideas in science, chemistry, bioengineering and other scientific fields.

It all started in 2019 when the students were working on a project to make bioplastic to solve many environmental problems that are destroying the environment and badly affecting living creatures. In the last two years, even with the challenges of Covid19, the students dedicated their time to developing their project trying to improve it to come up with the appropriate form of biodegradable bioplastic that can make an excellent replacement for industrial plastic.

This bioplastic is made from environmentally safe and natural materials and was tested on fruits and vegetables. The result was that this type of plastic succeeded in preserving them for a longer period than industrial plastic. Being biodegradable, the plastic can be converted into fertilizer which means that they have more uses than just fruit preservation.

They participated in the Cognitive Development Program in the Sultanate which is a program for students in mathematics, science and environmental geography concepts. They got the first in Oman and they were nominated to participate at the ISEF Fair thereafter.

To develop the project, Duaa and Neam invented the smart refrigerator that sprays liquid bioplastic on fruits and vegetables to keep them fresh for longer. The refrigerator enables its users to control its humidity and temperature via phone.

The girls faced many challenges during their creation process but they only have eyes for the prize. As school students, they didn’t have the same access to large materials as large plastic companies so they were forced to work with what they had. They were making the plastic manually until they got a proper machine. They have started to do all their work in the school laboratory and after a while, they got support from Sultan Qaboos University and other related companies to continue their research and experiments. Not to forget that finding the proper sample of the bioplastic wasn’t an easy task and it took a lot of time.

Such a remarkable achievement is a cause of pride for the girls and Oman as a whole. The girls both admitted that all of their achievements weren’t possible without the help of teacher Thikra, the girls’ supervisor who was always there for them along the journey.

Both girls are dreaming of creating their own company to produce biodegradable bioplastic that would help prevent further soil degradation and water pollution and produce products that would become great alternatives for harmful industrial plastic.

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