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Government chemists tap nuclear for abaca filter

Friday, November 29, 2019 11:31 PM    Views : 56by:Rainier Allan Ronda

MANILA, Philippines — Leading chemists from the Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (DOST-PNRI) have tapped nuclear science to develop an abaca-based fiber that can filter heavy metals and other toxic substances.

The DOST-PNRI said that the potential filter material was a composite nonwoven fabric developed from natural fibers such as abaca and paired with synthetic polymers.

Initial tests show it can filter heavy metals dissolved in liquid. Metals such as lead, cadmium, nickel, chromium, mercury and arsenic are hazardous to health as well as the environment.

The development of the potential use for abaca as a filter material bodes well for the local abaca farming industry.

Abaca continues to be useful and readily available as the Philippines remains its world’s largest producer, accounting for around 85 percent of global production. The native material’s natural strength also makes it perfect for withstanding the grafting procedure, allowing it to serve as base material.

The potential abaca-based filter material is produced from a graft of abaca fiber using radiation at PNRI’s Electron Beam Irradiation Facility, after which it is further processed into its final form as a synthesized filter for heavy metals. Radiation can be used to modify materials and graft various polymers that can have advanced properties such as filtering various contaminants from water.

Studies by the PNRI Chemistry Research Section showed that the nonwoven fabric is reusable and cheaper than commercial resins which have the same purpose, while also being at par with if not better than resin in filtering the waste.

PNRI was granted a utility model for the technology in 2019 and continues to develop radiation grafting for other applications.

More recently, the invention was declared as regional winner for the Outstanding Utility Model Award during the 2019 DOST Regional Invention Contests and Exhibits in the National Capital Region held on Nov. 6 to 8, 2019.

Radiation grafted materials are expected to prove useful for various industries, particularly those requiring wastewater treatment. The International Atomic Energy Agency has also engaged in a project with the Philippines and other countries for the increasing use of these technologies to minimize hazardous pollutants in various bodies of water in the Asia-Pacific region.

PNRI researchers are looking forward to the development of other applications of radiation grafting such as producing biodiesel and recovering precious metals.

Source: https://www.philstar.com/business/science-and-environment/2019/11/28/1972324/government-chemists-tap-nuclear-abaca-filter

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