16-year old South African Kiara Nirghin wins the Google Science Fair's Community Impact Award

16 year old South African scholar Kiara Nirghin has won Google’s Community Impact Award for creating a super absorbent polymer that could combat drought.

South Africans are well acquainted with the effects of drought; our country is presently facing its worst drought in recorded history. However, Kiara Nirghin, a 16 year old South African student from Johannesburg, has given us a glimpse of hope with her creation – a super absorbent polymer that could be used to store water.
Nirghin has officially won Google Science Fair’s Community Impact Award for the Middle East and Africa for her submission, which was entitled “No More Thirsty Crops”
Nirgin made use of orange peel and avocado skins to develop what is known as a superabsorbent polymer (SAP) which is capable of storing reserves of water hundreds of times its own weight. The creation effectively would allow farmers to maintain their crops at a reduced cost, and the solution is entirely based on recyclable and biodegradable waste products.

A winning idea

Andrea Cohan, the program leader of the  Google Science Fair, stated that “Kiara Nirghin found an ideal material that won’t hurt the budget in simple orange peel, and through her research, she created a way to turn it into soil-ready water storage with help from the avocado.”
Speaking on the origin her idea, Nirghin stated that “I wanted to minimize the effect that drought has on the community and the main thing it affects is the crops… That was the springboard for the idea.”
On the physical makeup of her winning creation, Nirgin recalled that “I started researching what an SAP was, and what they all had in common was a chain molecule polysaccharide… I found that orange peel has 64% polysaccharide and also the gelling agent pectin, so I saw it as a good (option). I used avocado skin due to the oil.”
From that point, the combined skin and peel were left to mix under the sun, where both reacted with one another to form the absorbent polymer.

Hope for South Africa

On the potential for the creation to assist in averting disaster across South Africa’s drought-stricken farms, Nirghin stated her belief that “If the idea was commercialized and applied to real farms and real crops I definitely think the impact that drought has on crops would be reduced.”
As part of her success, Nirghin has been assigned a mentor from Google to work with her in developing her creation. From there, she will compete among other youth to become on of Google’s sixteen global finalists. The 16 year old hopes to pursue a career in health sciences or engineering in the near future.
What are your thoughts on Kiara Nirghin’s amazing success and creation? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Follow Bryan Smith on Twitter: @bryansmithSA
Source: Google Science Fair