Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Banana Peels and Water Purification

Banana peels can be used to purify drinking water contaminated with toxic heavy metals such as copper and lead. According to a February 2011 study published in Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, researchers from the Bioscience Institute at Botucatu, Brazil, indicates that banana skins are better than conventional purification agents. Traditionally water purifiers like aluminium oxide, cellulose and silica are used but these are expensive and have potentially toxic side effects.

The team's method follows previous work that showed that plant parts, such as cane husks, coconut fibres and peanut shells, can also remove toxins from water. All of these natural materials contain chemicals that attract and collect heavy metals.

In a laboratory experiment, Gustavo Rocha de Castro, a researcher at the institute and co-author of this study, along with his colleagues, dried banana peels in the sun for a week, ground them and added them to river water containing known concentrations of copper and lead. They found that the peels absorbed 97 per cent of the metals after just one hour.

The metals can then be removed from the skins so that they can be safely disposed of. According to Castro the material could also work on cadmium, nickel and zinc.

© 2011, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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