Date palms are reminiscent of oasis. Dates from the date farms in Middle East are savored world over as this region’s special offering. But little do we know that the palm leaves from date farming are a major waste product that gets discarded by the ton.
Researchers from the Sultan Qaboos University (SQU), Oman have come out with a novel idea to put this agricultural waste to good use. They have found out that the extracts from date palm leaves could be used to remove pharmaceutical chemicals from wastewater released from hospitals.
SQU’s chemists have been conducting research on hospital waste water and the use of natural resources in treating them. In this direction they set up a pilot treatment plant to find solutions for the same. The first step was to treat the hospital wastewater to make them sterile before letting them out into the sewers. For this they used activated carbon (obtained from charcoal) in the filtration process. With this research, they are able to use dehydrated carbon obtained from waste date palm leaves.
The process involves treating the leaves with sulfuric acid at 170°C through a process known as carbonization. The carbon thus produced is efficient and removes pharmaceutical dyes and chemicals from the water with as much ease as the activated carbon. In addition, it also removes heavy metals from the water, rendering it safe for irrigation.
Dehydrated Carbon vs. Activated Carbon for Water Treatment
Senior researcher and principal scientist, El-Said El-Shafey has developed this method through 12 years of knowledge and hard work in the field. He has been successful in making dehydrated carbon from various other agricultural wastes such as olive stones and rice husks.
Date palm leaves are his latest research subject and have proven more efficient than any other. This is a major step in reducing environmental pollution for the production of activated carbon used in various treatment plants all over the world. Using dehydrated carbon produced from agricultural waste is not only useful for treating waste water but also making potable water more abundant and cheap.
This technique will be useful in most parts of Middle East and also North Africa, where 180,000 tons of date palm leaves are generated each year as a result of the date farming.