Student uses catfish fat to create bioplastics

Last update 07:10 | 08/01/2018
VietNamNet Bridge – Vu Thị Mai Anh, 23, a student at the Hanoi University of Education, has conducted research on isolating and selecting bacteria capable of converting basa fish (catfish) fat into Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA). 

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Vu Thi Mai Anh

After being subdivided and selected, microorganisms are cultured in catfish fat and converted into environmentally friendly bioplastics.

The research won first prize in the field of food technology at Euréka 2017, a contest for technology students organized by the HCM City Youth Union.

Anh said that regular plastic products are mostly synthesized from oil-derived substances and need a long time to disintegrate and have negative effects on the environment.

The PHA created by Anh can disintegrate in a natural environment containing microorganisms.

Regular plastic products are mostly synthesized from oil-derived substances and need a long time to disintegrate and have negative effects on the environment.

Initially, Anh had to find microorganisms in the soil (called strains). After that, she conducted microorganism subdivision in the laboratory to identify which species the strains belonged to.

“I had to analyze strains’ biological characteristics and culture them in the environment with catfish fat, so that the strains use and convert the fish fat into PHA,” she explained.

Finished bioplastics can be used to produce most common plastic products. They are non-electricity conductive, non-heat conductive and nonabsorbent.

Bioplastics have characteristics similar to common plastics, but they are more environmentally friendly due to the ability to decompose.

Dr Doan Van Thuoc, vice dean of biology of the Hanoi University of Education, said: “The research can open up new prospects in manufacturing environmentally friendly bioplastics in Vietnam. The author needs further research to cooperate with enterprises for industrial production.”

Anh’s parents are businesspeople but she decided to become a teacher because her chemistry teacher at high school was her idol.

“The teacher didn’t give lessons in the traditional method, but used new methods,” she said. “The teacher usually showed video clips describing chemical reactions, which made it easy for students to understand and remember.”

The teaching method has been used by Anh since the day she entered university and began her research. She spent two years on the research and experienced numerous failures before gaining achievements.

Anh said she will compile a lesson on the topic in a simple way and introduce the research to students.

In related news, some food processors said they will set up a line to produce diesel oil from tra fish. Fish scraps such as heads, entrails, bones and fat would be collected to produce bio-diesel to fuel power generators of their plants.

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