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Fruit peels to the rescue

Watch: Singapore researchers are trying to give banana skins and coconut husks a new lease of life in water purification kits that can be used in disaster situations. They could one day also be used in the manufacture of batteries.

To assistant professor Edison Ang, a tossed banana peel is a wasted opportunity to harvest valuable solid carbon.

The material science expert at Nanyang Technological University’s National Institute of Education has been looking into how organic waste materials such as fruit peels can be turned into a type of advanced, super-thin material sought after in sensors, batteries and water treatment gear.

Known as ‘MXenes’, this layer can convert some 90 per cent of the sun’s light to heat. In a ‘solar still’ or a specially-built transparent structure that can be placed over dirty ponds, the layer helps to accelerate the distillation process. Water vapour trapped in the gadget condenses elsewhere and becomes clean water. 

Currently, the carbon used in such materials come from more pollutive sources such as coal.

Ang is trying to further optimise the design of the solar still, now in its second iteration, and sees potential use of his prototype in disaster areas with limited access to electricity.

He is next looking to test how well his MXene material will perform in batteries.

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