In Singapore, researchers have developed a method to convert pineapple leaf fibers into aerogels with applications in food preservation and wastewater treatment. National University of Singapore Associate Professor Duong Hai-Minh says the aerogels are very versatile. “They are effective as oil absorbents and for heat and sound insulation,” he says. “We have also demonstrated their potential applications in food preservation and wastewater treatment. This is a big step towards sustainable agriculture and waste management, and provides an additional source of income for farmers.”
With the addition of activated carbon, the aerogels can be used to preserve fruits and vegetables. “Vast quantities of fresh agricultural produce are discarded due to inadequate post-harvest storage and processing facilities, as well as inefficient or disrupted transportation systems. Therefore, cutting down spoilage can go a long way in reducing waste,” says Professor Nhan Phan-Thien, a senior member of the research team.
And, when coated with diethylenetriamine, the aerogels can remove nickel ions from industrial wastewater. “Due to its high porosity, eco-aerogels are highly efficient in removing metal ions, even in dilute solutions where the amount of metal ions is low. The treatment process is simple, cheaper and does not generate secondary waste,” Duong adds. “Eco-aerogels can also easily desorb the metal ions and be reused several times, further reducing costs.”