Kiara Nirghin, a 16 year-old South African student who goes to St. Martin’s in Johannesburg, has been named the overall winner of the 2016 Google Science Fair.
She was awarded the grand prize of $50,000 (R687,470) for her project titled “Combatting drought with a Low-Cost, biodegradable Superabsorbent Polymer made out of orange peels“.
Google said the prize will be given in scholarship funding, and is intended to further Nirghin’s education.
In her online submission to the science fair, Nirghin explains that she conducted three experiments over 45 days to see if she could make a superabsorbent polymer (SAP) out of bio-waste that outperforms existing synthetic SAPs.
“The results of the water retention test showed that the ‘orange peel mixture’ can absorb 76.1% of water, which is significantly greater than the acrylic SAP, starch SAP and pectin SAP,” Nirghin said.
Her orange peel mixture was made out of waste products found in the juice manufacturing industry where the only resources involved were electricity and time. No special equipment nor materials were required, she said.
Nirghin also noted that commercially used acrylic SAP retails for around $2,000 to $3,000 (R27,586 to R41,390) per metric ton, and is not bio-degradable, whereas the ‘orange peel mixture’ could retail at $30 to $60 (R414 to R828) per metric ton.
She said she hopes this low-cost material can reduce juice manufacturing waste while helping local farmers save both money and their crops.
Source: Business Tech