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Qatar Uni to research uses for date palm waste

A new method in which date palm waste is used to create sustainable, value-added products is presently being researched by Qatar University Centre for Advanced Materials

Postdoctoral researcher Dr Patrik Soboliciak, research assistant Aisha Tanvir, and Qapco Polymer chair at QU Prof Igor Krupa at a lab. (image The Peninsula)
Postdoctoral researcher Dr Patrik Soboliciak, research assistant Aisha Tanvir, and Qapco Polymer chair at QU Prof Igor Krupa at a lab. (image The Peninsula)

A research project by the Qatar University Centre for Advanced Materials (QU-CAM) will undertake a study to use date palm waste to produce sustainable, value-added products.

The project, ‘Renewable palm waste: More valuable than people think’, is headed by Qatar Petrochemical Company (Qapco) Polymer chair Prof Igor Krupa at QU, and includes post-doctoral researcher Dr Patrik Soboliciak, and research assistant Aisha Tanvir.

CAM Director Prof Mariam Al Maadeed explained that of the more than 600,000 palm trees in Qatar, the waste is usually incinerated, “which not only results in loss of a valuable resource, but incineration is also environmentally unfriendly”.

To ease the issue, the centre is focusing on extracting nanocellulose from palm waste, The Peninsula reports.
“This cellulose can then be used in a variety of applications such as reinforcement of polymers, water purification, paper manufacture and more,” said Al Maadeed.

The added bonus is that date palm is deeply embedded in Arabic culture and is found to exhibit potential as a sustainable green reinforcement material.

“This research activity embodies QU’s continued commitment to actively tackle local challenges and research solutions for real-world problems and is in line with Qatar’s stated ambitions towards building a knowledge-based economy,” he added.

When extracted from date palm waste, nanocellulose exhibits mechanical properties akin to Kevlar, a lightweight material used to manufacture high-strength products, Prof Krupa said.

“Similar mechanical properties and being an environment-friendly material makes nanocellulose a superior alternative to Kevlar and other fossil fuel-based materials,” he added.

The cellulose can be extracted from the palm waste by employing chemical or mechanical processes and the cellulose nanofibres have the ability to replace common inorganic fibres for material reinforcement in the medical, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry.

“The transparent nature of cellulose nanocrystals also makes them promising candidates for use in protective eyewear, windows, or displays,” he added.

The use of palm material to create sustainable habitats was covered mid-2015 by CWQ, wherein architect Dr Sandra Piesik, presented her ideas to a summit conference held in Mexic,o during which the world body officially endorsed her approach to building, utilising the natural product.

The method utilises palm leaves, which up to recent times was used extensively in the region “but now, sadly, is put into landfill”, says Piesik.

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Construction Week - Issue 729
Feb 14, 2019