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Scientist turns fruit waste into material used in water purifier

ANN/THE STRAITS TIMES – A Nanyang Technological University scientist has developed an ultra-thin material made from recycled fruit with exceptional light-to-heat conversion efficiency that can be used in equipment to purify dirty water.

Assistant Professor Edison Ang successfully used coconut husks, orange peels and banana peels to make MXenes, an electrical-conducting compound with similar properties to graphene, commonly used in the electronics industry.

In a previous study, he also managed to synthesise graphene-related materials from recycled plastic.

Assistant Professor Edison Ang. PHOTO: NTU SINGAPORE

Unlike graphene, MXenes are made from other elements besides carbon, giving them better light-to-heat conversion property, and the two-dimensional layered structure has multiple opening channels that allow for water to pass through easily.

MXenes are also outstanding electrical conductors, hundreds of times stronger than steel, and extremely light.

Their exceptional properties enable them to replace conventional materials in industrial applications such as energy storage, optical and sensors.

As raw materials need to be mined for their synthesis, MXenes are expensive and complicated to process. Assistant Professor Ang has devised a simple method where fruit peel is carbonised to make MXenes.

“Our synthesis process is three times cheaper than commercial methods because the original source that we use (fruit waste) is free of charge,” he said in an interview on January 13.

For now, Assistant Professor Ang plans to use his MXenes in solar stills, which use sunlight to distil dirty water. 

He said, “It doesn’t require any electricity because we’re using renewable solar energy, so it is very easy to deploy. As long as you have sunlight, you can use it.”

Assistant Professor Ang also plans to use his MXene in applications such as energy storage and battery manufacturing.

He is currently unable to disclose which companies he is working with due to confidentiality clauses.

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