Study on Banana Fibre Oil Spill Absorbency

Fibre from the stem of the banana plant can efficiently absorb oil spills that pollute coasts and threaten marine life says a new study by Indian researchers published during September. Banana fibre, when treated with certain chemicals, can absorb up to 18 times their weight of oil, Carbohydrate Polymers.

Scientists at the Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT), Mumbai, who carried out the study, said the absorptive properties of banana fibre were known. The problem was that it absorbed both oil and water, reducing effectiveness. The researchers developed a means to treat banana fibres chemically so that they repel water while absorbing oil, a fossil fuel. The experiments showed that when banana fibres were ‘acetylated’ with acetic anhydride, their oil absorption capacity improved dramatically. The acetylation process was catalysed using N-Bromosuccinimide.

The authors claimed that acetylated banana fibre being biodegradable it will have no adverse environmental impact. At present, organic chemical compounds like polypropylene and polyurethane form the bulk of sorbents or large sponges used in removing oil spills. However, such synthetic materials are non-biodegradable and pose problems of safe disposal. On the contrary, oil soaked up by sorbents made of acetylated banana fibre can be recovered for use, according to the scientists who conducted the study.

Source: SciDev Net, Science Direct

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