Researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) are turning pineapple waste into aerogels for insulation, oil-spill cleanup, noise reduction and food preservation.

To create aerogels derived from pineapple waste, the team used a decortication machine to extract pineapple fibers from pineapple leaves. Those fibers were then combined with a cross-linker polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), which is then cured at 80° C to encourage crosslinking of the PVA and fibers in a 10 to 12 hour-long process.

This, according to the NUS team, is much faster than current aerogel manufacturing processes wherein polymer is combined with a solvent to form a gel. Once formed, liquid is removed from the gel and replaced with air, creating a porous and low density material.

The manufacture of traditional aerogel is reportedly more expensive and environmentally harmful as it releases toxic levels of carbon into the atmosphere.

The pineapple-derived aerogel can, according to researchers, be used like polymer-based aerogels — for heat and sound insulation — as well as for food preservation, reusable mask filters and oil-spill cleanup, thanks to the material’s oil-absorbing properties.

The NUS team is currently exploring methods for manufacturing the pineapple-derived aerogel al large-scale.

The research appears in the Journal of Environmental Chemical Engineering.

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