Thursday, 24 September 2020

Singapore upcycles pineapple leaves into eco-aerogel

14 September 2020 | News

The nine-member team from NUS has filed a patent for the production of the eco-aerogels made from pineapple leaf fibres for food preservation and wastewater treatment

Image credit- nus.edu

Image credit- nus.edu

Pineapples are rich in vitamins, enzymes and antioxidants, and they are considered one of the most important fruits in the world. However, the harvesting of this delicious and healthy fruit results in tons of pineapple leaves waste which are usually left to rot or are burned. This could, in turn, release harmful chemicals and greenhouse gases that can cause serious environmental problems.

To address this challenge, researchers from NUS have devised a simple and low-cost method of using pineapple leaf fibres to create ultra-light, biodegradable aerogels. When coated with specific chemicals, these biodegradable aerogels that can be used to keep fruits and vegetables for a longer period, and to remove toxic metals from wastewater, among a wide range of other applications. 

These eco-aerogels can be reused, further reducing waste and improving sustainability. They can also be safely disposed into the environment without causing pollution.  

The research team from NUS Mechanical Engineering has been looking at ways to reduce waste, and in turn promote environmental sustainability, by upcycling different types of waste – such as paper, textile, plastic and rubber – into multi-functional aerogels. Their latest work on eco-aerogels started in August 2016 and took three years to achieve promising results. 

The NUS team had also produced eco-aerogels using other agricultural and food waste such as sugarcane bagasse, coffee grounds and okara. 

The nine-member team from NUS has filed a patent for the production of the eco-aerogels made from pineapple leaf fibres for food preservation and wastewater treatment. There are plans to work with an industry partner to scale up and commercialise this technology. 

 

Image caption- Assoc Prof Duong Hai-Minh (centre) and his team from NUS Mechanical Engineering

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