In recent times the PNG balsa industry has increased in global volume and value due to the demand from China to manufacture renewable wind energy farms. The industry has in turn provided employment to a large population of locals particularly in the PNG province of East New Britain.
But the global financial crisis changed that and the industry is now one in over supply and under demand.
This is where Nathan Kotlarewski comes in. Nathan is a PhD student at Swinburne University of Technology’s Centre for Design Innovation and as part of his research he’s been looking at ways to develop new and novel products for the PNG balsa wood industry which in turn is helping to protect the incomes of the locals who heavily depend on the industry.
A specific part of Nathan’s research has focussed on “Balsalation” or new ways to use balsa panels for interior wall or ceiling linings to enhance the thermal and acoustic insulation of interior dwellings.
Nathan’s “Balsalation” projects ticks all the boxes in sustainability, social responsibility and this year has also earned him the honour of winning the 2014 Swinburne Innovation Cup.
His $10,000 prize will go towards the commercial development of products using PNG balsa.