Outstanding, SA Teen Bags Google Science Fair Award


BuzzSouthAfrica learnt that a 16-year-old South African emerged the regional winner of Africa and Middle East Google Science Fair Community Impact Award.

Interestingly, the lassie is now among the 16 global finalists. She will travel to Google’s headquarter in California for the award ceremony.

Reports identified the SA teen as Kiara Nirghin from St Martin’s High School in Johannesburg.

She took on the drought problem of Southern Africa. Her efforts yielded a way crops can be hydrated for a longer time with less cost.

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“I sought to create a product that can improve soil quality, preserve water and resist drought therefore producing a better environment for crops grow.

It must be harmless and non-polluting with super water absorbing ability and water preserving ability while the absorbed water cannot be easily removed when applied to soil subject to microbiological degradation as a result of aerobic and anaerobic bacteria,” read an excerpt from her Research report.

To Nirghin, Superabsorbent Polymers (SAPs) is a clear solution to the drought problem.

She explained that “SAPs absorb and carry about 300 times its weight in liquid relative to their own mass. When a SAP is cross-linked with polymerization, the product is water retaining hydrogels that act as a reservoir of collected water in soil.

…During more research in the topic, I found that natural occurring polymers exist in most citrus fruits. Orange peels contain over 64% of polysaccharide making it a candidate for biodegradable polymer.

However, the polymer has to be cross-linked usually requiring chemicals such as Sulphur and Hydrochloric acid. I have explored an organic cross-linking method using UV light and heat.

Emulsion polymerization was then conducted by using natural oil found in avocado peels and adding it to boiled orange peels. The product is then left in the sun, utilizing photo polymerization.

The product should be able to retain large amounts of water and combat the effects of drought on crops by retaining soil moisture, whilst still recycling waste products of the juice manufacturing industry,” Nirghin buttressed.

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Google Science Fair is a global competitive outreach that invites young brains across the world to tell how they make the world better through science‚ maths‚ and engineering.

Click here for the full report of Nirghin’s research.

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