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16 year old invents super material to fight drought

"No More Thirsty Crops" was the title of 16 year old Kiara Nirghin's submission to the Google Science Fair's Community Impact Awards for the Middle East and Africa, which she won.

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“No More Thirsty Crops” was the title of 16 year old Kiara Nirghin’s submission to the Google Science Fair’s Community Impact Awards for the Middle East and Africa, which she won.

The 16 year old student from Johannesburg, South Africa invented a polymer that can store reserves of water hundreds of times its own weight using orange peels and avocado skins. This new invention would make farmers capable of storing water reserves at a very low cost. The polymer is made from biodegradable waste products which makes it very sustainable.

South African is currently going through one of the worst droughts in 45 years.

“This matter has to be urgently addressed, with food sources under severe strain and still household food security being a major concern.” Kiara says.

After lots of research the teenager was confident that she could create something to fight the drought. After conducting 3 experiments spanned over 45 days later Kiara was successful in creating a low-cost super absorbent polymer. The ‘Orange peel mixture’ is made out of waste products found in the juice manufacturing industry and the only resources involved in creating the mixtures was electricity and time. “Commercially used acrylic SAP retail for around $2,000 to $3,000 per metric ton, whereas the ‘orange peel mixture’ could retail at $30 to $60 per metric ton.”

The orange peel SAP contains no chemicals and is fully biodegradable. “The orange peel SAP can easily be reproduced in poorer communities suffering from drought to replenish plants and sustain food security.” Kiara says.

Kiara made the mixture of orange skin and avocado peels and left it in the sun where the mixture formed to create a super absorbent polymer.

Kiara wants to use her ‘orange peel SAP’ on a larger scale by applying it to crops such as maize and wheat in poorer communities in South Africa.

A mentor from Google has been assigned to help her develop her Orange peel sap.

“I am extremely delighted with the result that I have created a super absorbent polymer with no chemicals and entirely made out of waste products” Kiara Nirghin

Kiara is confident that the use of her orange peel SAP, food security could increase by 73% in a drought disaster.

She will soon find out if she is one of Google’s sixteen global finalists.