Indigenous spinifex nanofibres that have potential to manufacture strong, lightweight plastics and rubber are the subject of a partnership between Aboriginal rangers at Camooweal and the University of Queensland.
As reported in February, the university’s Australian Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology has been investigating the use of fibres from triodia pungens, a native species which grows in the north-west of the state.
“We’ve known for a long time that spinifex is special,” Colin Saltmere, managing director of the Dugalungi Aboriginal Corporation told the ABC.
“All those things that you’d normally have to hunt and gather with, you’d use spinifex for… You’d use it to make spears, chisels and they even make spoons and forks and knives.”
The university’s Professor Darren Martin has said the plant’s nanofibres, isolated after grinding and pulping, could be used to make the world’s thinnest, strongest condoms. The pilot plant will produce 5 kilograms a day.
“There’s a lot of interest, very serious interest, from all the big players and if all goes to plan, we could be into products within three years,” Professor Martin told the ABC.
If successfully adopted in products, Saltmere believes there is strong potential to create a local jobs market around the spinifex.