Chemist Discovers a Non-Prank Use for Banana Peels

Photo: sandman_kk / CC

Like a yellow jumpsuit that every banana must shed before going skinny-dipping in our tummies -- those infamous peels have eluded any further purpose for centuries. But, just when you thought that banana peels were destined merely to be the tormentor of cartoon characters and video-game go-kart racers, science has finally found a use to nature's most slippery litter. It turns out that peels can do more than clean the clock of some unobservant pedestrian -- they can clean dirty water, too.According to Brazilian media, a chemist named Milena Boniolo from the Federal University of São Carlos, near São Paulo, has made a discovery that could potentially save thousands of banana peels from the garbage heap. When dried and ground into a powder, says Boniolo, peels have the ability to clean up polluted water.

For Boniolo, inspiration for finding a practical use for banana peels came after seeing so much of them going to waste. She estimates that her city's restaurants alone discard around four tons of the stuff each week. If her technique is implemented, it could be a low-cost alternative to the expensive methods used by industries currently -- which often use things like magnetic nanoparticles to clean water.

Banana peels, evidently, are rich in negatively charged molecules, so they attract the heavy and positively charged metal pollutants in water -- and they're quite effective, too. For every treatment with the peel powder, around 65 percent of the water was decontaminated. The process can also be repeated purify the water almost completely.

"I started doing it at home. It's really easy," says Boniolo.

The discovery was made as part of her PhD dissertation, but Boniolo is hoping that it will actually be used by industries as a way to keep contaminants out of the water and find a new use for organic waste. She's currently seeking out a partner to help get her project off the ground -- and get those slippery banana peels off the streets, too.

Via Folha
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Tags: Fruits & Vegetables | Pollution | Water Conservation

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