WASHINGTON, Aug. 10, 2011 — To the surprisingly inventive uses for banana peels which include polishing silverware, leather shoes, and the leaves of house plants, scientists have added purification of drinking water contaminated with potentially toxic metals. That’s the topic of the latest episode in the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) award-winning “Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions” podcast series.
It actually points out that minced banana peel performs better than an array of other traditional purification materials.
Gustavo Castro and colleagues note in the podcast that mining processes, runoff from farms, and industrial wastes can all put heavy metals, such as lead and copper, into waterways. Heavy metals can have adverse health and environmental effects. Current methods of removing heavy metals from water are expensive, and some substances used in the process are toxic themselves. Previous work has shown that some plant wastes, such as coconut fibers and peanut shells, can remove these potential toxins from water. The researchers wanted to find out whether minced banana peels could also act as water purifiers.
They discovered that minced banana peel could quickly remove lead and copper from river water as well as, or better than, many other materials. A purification apparatus made of banana peels can be used up to 11 times without losing its metal-binding properties, they note. The team adds that banana peels are very attractive as water purifiers because of their low cost and because they don’t have to be chemically modified.
Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions is a series of podcasts describing some of the 21st Century’s most daunting problems, and how cutting-edge research in chemistry matters in the quest for solutions. Global Challenges is the centerpiece in an alliance on sustainability between ACS and the Royal Society of Chemistry. Global Challenges is a sweeping panorama of global challenges that includes dilemmas such as providing a hungry, thirsty world with ample supplies of safe food and clean water; developing alternatives to petroleum to fuel society; preserving the environment and assuring a sustainable future for our children; and improving human health. During the 2011 global celebration of the International Year of Chemistry (IYC), Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions also is focusing on the main themes of IYC — health, environment, energy, and materials.