ISSR congratulates Professor Darren Martin, from UQ's Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) for finalising an agreement to work in partnership with the Indjalandji-Dhidhanu people to transform spinifex grass into commercial products. UQ nanotechnologists are working with remote Indigenous communities to harvest and process the grass into products ranging from super-strong roads and tyres, to super-thin condoms and surgical gloves.

While Indigenous Australians have known about the amazing properties of spinifex grass for millennia, Western scientists are only just beginning to discover its potential. The AIBN team, including Dr Nasim Amiralian and Dr Pratheep Annamalai, have recently developed a method of extracting nanofibers from spinifex, which can be used as an additive in latex products.

They have found that the nanofibers from spinifex significantly improved the physical properties of latex, and can be used to make products such as condoms as thin as human hair without any loss in strength.

In pursuing the commercialisation of this nanofiber technology, UQ has signed an agreement with the Dugalunji Aboriginal Corporation – ensuring that the remote Indigenous community will have ongoing equity and involvement in the project.

The partnership evolved from a 2008 project on the science of spinifex grass and ways of working with Indigenous communities to source and harvest the grass, which was led by Professor Paul Memmott who is based in ISSR and the School of Architecture.

“This agreement with UQ will enhance opportunities for employment in remote regions where demographic data shows intergenerational dependency on welfare income, coupled with limited opportunities for employment,” Professor Memmott said.

“Regionally sustainable partnerships are needed and can advance new industry developments.”

Professor Memmott believes there is a possibility spinifex farming could create some of these much needed prospects.

“There is a good potential here for turning science discoveries into new employment opportunities that fit with Indigenous peoples’ connections to place and family,” he said.

News Category: 
23 September 2016