Date farmers in Oman could be in possession of a special material that could be used to remove pharmaceutical chemicals and dyes from hospital wastewater. Releasing contaminated water into municipal sewer systems can be detrimental to the local water supply, so for the past few years, researchers at Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) have been looking for an affordable way to establish a hospital wastewater treatment unit.
Recent developments suggest that a locally available material, date palm leaves, could be the inexpensive answer to this long-standing problem. If successful, the result could be a greener alternative to ‘activated carbon‘, which is the current standard in water filtration.
The team has been working to produce ‘dehydrated carbon’ from the date leaves in the hopes that they can eliminate the energy-intensive and highly-polluting process that’s used to create typical carbon filtration systems. In the new process, waste leaves are carbonised by sulphuric acid treatment at 170 degrees Celsius, before being used to treat wastewater.
We have found that dehydrated carbon produced from date palm leaves is as efficient as activated carbon for removing pharmaceuticals and dyes from wastewater,” El-Said El-Shafey, the project’s principal researcher and an assistant chemistry professor at SQU, tells SciDev.Net. ”Date palm dehydrated carbon was also extraordinary in removing heavy metals and can be reused many times,” he adds.
Researchers hope this technique could be used across most of the Middle East and North Africa, particularly in Oman, where 180,000 tonnes of date palm leaves are produced and thrown away annually.