As a fruit, bananas are beautifully packed - all the protection they need is provided by a flexible, elastic skin. As Elif, 16, found out, the starch and cellulose contained in the outer layer can also be used to create materials that are used in insulating wires and forming medical prostheses.
Bilgin developed a chemical process that turns a banana peel into a non-degrading bioplastic that she hopes will help replace the original oil-based, polluting environment.
Work Bilgin received the top prize in the competition of Scientific American Science in the amount of $ 50,000.
The last two years, the schoolgirl spent studying the possible methods of converting a banana peel into plastic. Having learned that food waste is used for the production of bioplastics , and even the mango peel, the girl decided that the banana peel could be an excellent raw material. After all, only in Thailand 200 tons of peel are emitted daily, although this amount could be used much more efficiently than garbage heaps .
The official video explains well the process used by Elif. The choice of bananas is important at the beginning of production - bananas should be the same size, one color index, without dark spots.
The peel is placed in sodium metabisulfite, boiled, and then frayed. The resulting paste is formed in a Petri dish and heated. 12 experiments were conducted with various combinations of processes, of which the last 2 were successful - during their execution a real bioplastic was obtained.
Bilgin applied various chemicals and processes to the treatment of banana peels. She combined concentrations, temperatures, sequences, and holding time until she finally achieved the desired result. The material obtained during the last two experiments did not degrade over time and had sufficient strength, which indicates its real applicability.
"Although the experiments were successful, they didn't go perfectly and always left room for improvement. Perhaps this is due to the inconstancy of the peel properties, since I bought bananas on different days and from different batches, albeit in the same market. And the experiments themselves were not carried out simultaneously in all variants for one batch of bananas, "- Elif comments on the results of his work.
Bilgin positions his plastic as an insulating material for cable products and a material for medical prostheses . According to her, the greatest satisfaction for her is the fact that the new material can really replace traditional plastic.
The award, which went to the schoolgirl, highly appreciates projects that are innovative, easily applicable and can be reproduced in other regions.
This is a great inspirational story about technology and new product development, but the story is a stub. This method of bioplastic production is not fundamentally different from other uses for food waste, such as potatoes or mango peel. What really is a challenge is the beginning of the widespread use of such material and the production of bioplastics as an alternative to the traditional oil product.