Shiver Me Timbers: Papaya Enzyme Repels Barnacles


The other day we ran a review on The Doggy Dung Disaster, a book about 30 inspirational kids from around the world. One of those profiled is Vaishali Kiran Grover who was 14 when she was awarded $1,500 USD in the 2002 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. She garnered the award for her environmental science project, in which she discovered that snails near her family's papaya tree were dying, and she wondered if the same might hold true for marine mollusks, such as barnacles that attach themselves to the hulls of ships (slowing their movement). Her research led to a biodegradable enzyme treatment using papaya and pineapple. It offers an alternative to the usual anti-fouling paint that commonly contains heavy metals and toxic chemicals like cuprous oxide and tributyltin (TBT). The latter is something the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is hoping to phase out by about this time next year. In 2003 the US Navy awarded her a $8,000 scholarship for "original research in an important Naval-relevant scientific area." As recognition for her work, Vaishali had asteroid 17950 named Grover after her! How's that for 15 minutes of fame? The National Gallery For America's Young Inventors inducted her in 2004, where she has a comic telling her story. Or read Vaishali's story in a free PDF excerpt from The Doggy Dung Disaster.

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