Resetting, Reinventing, & Reimagining: The School of Science Paves The Way Towards A Sustainable Future

The Monash University Malaysia’s School of Science continues to trailblaze with their inventions, technologies, and products, and yet they strive to remain grounded in their approaches, ensuring that with their inventions, they are breaking new ground towards advancing our ways of life. Dr Thoo Yin Yin and Dr Pusphpamalar Janarnathan, senior lecturers at the School of Science, are the epitome of this education and research approach.

In late 2021, both Dr Thoo Yin Yin and Dr Pushpamalar Janarnathan recently showed merit and mettle at the International Invention, Innovation & Technology Exhibition (ITEX) 2021, and won the silver and bronze medals respectively for their outstanding inventions, achieving significant recognition for their work.

Dr Thoo Yin Yin with the silver medal award at ITEX 2021.

Dr Thoo Yin Yin showcased her invention of Biopolymer Film which is produced from sustainable, raw materials and exists as a viable alternative to single-use plastic food packaging. Dr Thoo Yin Yin shares that the biopolymer film is “non-toxic and easy to use as an alternative packaging material to keep food products fresh and reduce food spoilage”. Further to that, the film reduces dependency on precious fossil fuel resources and its high biodegradability allows for simple and safe disposal after usage. A 2019 study by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) revealed that Malaysia ranks second in Asia for annual per capita plastic use, with each person averaging generated waste of 16.78kg each. Considering this, the biopolymer film proves vital in advocating green and sustainable methods within the food production industry, as it will allow for many foods such as fruits, dried food, and oils to be switched away from single-use plastic food packaging. This invention, which also is in line with driving forward Malaysia’s Roadmap Towards Zero Single Use Plastics, carries with it the potential to create long-term and sustainable impact in the race to combat the climate crisis.

Dr Pushpamalar Janarnathan with the bronze medal award at ITEX 2021.

In a similar vein towards the conservation and improvement of human health, Dr Pushpamalar Janarthanan exhibited her invention, the Halal Vegetarian Capsule. The Halal Vegetarian Capsule meets an increasing demand for plant-based capsules in Malaysia, and challenges the mainstream production of gelatin capsules. Gelatin capsules, which are the most commercially available, are often of bovine origin, which can carry risks of transmitting bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) via the capsules. In addressing this, Dr Pushpamalar has posited the Halal Vegetarian capsule as a viable, cost-efficient alternative. She shares that the abundance of sago waste could lead to carboxymethyl sago cellulose (CMSC) capsules at a cheaper cost [and that this] is promising for Halal, vegetarian sourced, and disease-free vegetarian capsules.” This type of capsule also meets increasing consumer demands for healthy and environment-friendly capsules. However, the Halal Vegetarian capsule is not only more sustainable from health and environment perspectives, but is also more inclusive of the varying needs of our multicultural community, as it targets specific consumers, such as vegetarians, or religious or ethnic groups such as Muslims, Hindus and Jews, who observe dietary practises that forbid certain animal products.

Dr Thoo Yin Yin and Dr Pushpamalar Janarthanan have embodied and demonstrated the School of Sciences commitment to innovation and sustainability. The biopolymer film and halal vegetarian capsule are groundbreaking inventions which show long-term, sustainable impact, not merely affecting health and environment, but also having a profound influence on policy, economics, culture, and society. We look forward to seeing the progression of these inventions and what our MUM School of Science research teams develop next!