With the Philippines’ standing as the world’s largest producer of abaca, researchers from the Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (DOST-PNRI) seized the opportunity to develop a nonwoven fabric from the native abaca that can filter toxic pollutants from wastewater.
“The fabric can capture heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, nickel, chromium, mercury and arsenic, which can be harmful to human health and the environment,” the DOST-PNRI said in a Facebook post on Monday, June 21.
The development of the composite nonwoven fabric was made possible through radiation grafting which allows scientists to modify materials and graft various polymers that can have advanced properties such as filtering various contaminants from water.
The DOST-PNRI said abaca’s natural strength “makes it perfect for withstanding the grafting procedure, allowing it to serve as a base material.”
“The materials are grafted using radiation at PNRI’s Electron Beam Irradiation Facility, after which it is further processed into its final form as a synthesized filter for heavy metals.”
Citing the studies conducted by its Chemistry Research Section, the DOST-PNRI said the fabric “is reusable and cheaper to use than commercial resins which have the same purpose, while also being on par, if not better, in filtering the waste.”
The Institute noted that it was in 2019 that it was granted a utility model for the technology.
It vowed to continue developing radiation grafting for other applications.
“The radiation-grafted abaca fabric’s application for wastewater treatment is just the tip of the iceberg,” the DOST-PNRI said.
“Apart from wastewater treatment, radiation-grafted materials can also be configured for recovering precious metals, harvesting uranium from seawater, and even as a catalyst for producing biodiesel,” it added.
The PNRI cited that the abaca fabric won Outstanding Utility Model Award at the National Invention Contest and Exhibits (NICE) on March 5, 2020 at the SMX Convention Center Aura in Taguig City.
In November 2019, the fabric emerged as winner for the Regional Invention Contest and Exhibits (RICE) for the National Capital Region (NCR).
The product is an output of a project funded by the DOST-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) in collaboration with Philippine Textile Research Institute (PTRI), which provided the abaca/polyester nonwoven fabric.