Making Eco-Friendly Cleaners from Orange Peels to Purify Water

David Palenski
17th January, 2024

Making Eco-Friendly Cleaners from Orange Peels to Purify Water

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Have you ever considered the orange peel that you toss in the trash as a possible environmental hero? (No, really, have you?) It turns out that these unassuming scraps from our morning fruit may hold the key to a groundbreaking method for purifying water, a process that could change the way we think about waste and wastewater treatment. Let's talk dirty for a moment: wastewater. Not the most pleasant topic, but it's an important one, because it's filled with color-causing compounds that can be toxic, carcinogenic, and overall harmful to both humans and the environment. These compounds are not just a smudge on our clear waters but a blot on our conscience as well—how do we get rid of them effectively and sustainably? Enter the humble orange peel, previously seen as nothing more than compost fodder (or a slip hazard, if you're particularly clumsy). Researchers have found a novel approach, one that involves the creation of iron oxide nanoparticles (Fe2O3 NPs) from, you guessed it, orange peels. These nanoparticles might just be the eco-friendly solution industries have been searching for to decontaminate water from pesky dyes. But how do the researchers know they've created these iron oxide nanoparticles? Visual evidence is compelling—a change in color suggests something's afoot. And for the more scientifically inclined, the confirmation comes with the measurement of UV-visible absorbance at a specific wavelength—240 nanometers. It's like catching the particles red-handed, but instead of red, they are actually causing a color change that can be measured. The structure of these particles is intriguing in itself. Using transmission electron microscopy, a technique enabling us to peek at the tiny world, scientists have found that Fe2O3 NPs agglomerate, or cluster together, and form appealing spherical shapes ranging from 25-80 nanometers in size (which, for context, is incredibly tiny). But, where does the orange peel come in? Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, a mouthful of a phrase, confirms that compounds found in the orange peel extract play a role in reducing, capping, and synthesizing these nanoparticles from their precursor salt. Essentially, orange peels are not just a snack; they're also the manufacturing plant and protective gear for our nanoparticle friends. Now, why should this matter to us? Well, have you ever gazed at a clear blue sky and wished your wastewater looked just as pure? These nanoparticles have shown remarkable prowess in this realm, boasting a 97% photodegradation of methylene blue, a common dye, under visible light irradiation. That's right—97%! It's like using a spell to make the dye vanish—except it's science, not magic. As if cleaning up dyes weren't impressive enough, these nanoparticles also have a knack for hygiene. They exhibit biofilm inhibition action against notorious bacteria such as E. coli and S. aureus. In simple terms, they don't just clean; they disinfect too, making them a kind of microscopic cleaning crew (which, admittedly, does not sound particularly cute but is very effective). So, in conclusion, who knew that the answer to our wastewater worries might lie in the leftover peels of our morning snack? These iron oxide nanoparticles can purify water and suppress pathogens, making them not only a significant step towards a more sustainable environment but also a champion of reuse and eco-friendliness. With excellent degrading activity and the bonus of being reusable themselves, these nanoparticles present a future where clean water might be as simple as an orange a day—or at least, the peel of one. And isn't the idea of turning our waste into a weapon against pollution oddly satisfying? (I certainly think so.)



Main Study

1) Synthesis of iron oxide nanoparticles using orange fruit peel extract for efficient remediation of dye pollutant in wastewater.

Published 16th January, 2024

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