Indian-origin South African girl Kiara Nirghin on 1 October 2016 won the Google Science Fair prize 2016. She won this grand prize of 50000 US dollars scholarship for using orange peel to develop a cheaper super-absorbent material that helps soil retain water.
Kiara Nirghin is a Grade 11 student at St Martin’s private school. She did a project titled No More Thirsty Crops which was aimed at tackling the severe drought plaguing South Africa. Her solution to the problem of drought uses orange and avocado fruit peel, which are normally discarded.
The Google Science Fair is a programme for budding scientists between the ages of 13 to 18, who are invited to solve the world’s biggest challenges using science and technology.
Highlights of the Nirghin's Project
• The fruit peel serves perfect alternative to super-absorbent polymers (SAPs), which absorb and carry about 300 times their weight in liquid relative to their own mass.
• These SAPs are not biodegradable, are costly and full of acrylic acid, sodium hydroxide and other chemicals.
• It was after 45 days of experimentation that Nirghin was successful in creating a low-cost super-absorbent polymer, made out of waste products from the juice manufacturing industry.
• This polymer can retain large amounts of water, keep soil moist and improve crop growth without regular water supplements.
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When: 1 October 2016