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AUS team wins at Sharjah Sustainability Awards
A team of students from American University of Sharjah (AUS) won the Outstanding Team-Research Award at the sixth edition of the Sharjah Sustainability Awards (SSA) held recently and organized by the Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPPA). Participating universities included AUS, University of Sharjah, Al Qasimia University and Skyline University College.
The project entitled “Ionic Liquids Biorefinery: Converting Palm Dates to Valuable Products,” was created by chemical engineering students Venkata Saicharan Thatipamula, Reenam Sami, Yusuf Alkilani, Mohamed Nour and Mohammad Assaleh and advised by Dr. Paul Nancarrow, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering. The team participated in the SSA in response to a call for applied research with a focus on sustainability.
Based on the fact that the cultivation of date palm trees in the UAE generates around 600,000 tons of waste biomass every year, the goal of the project was to develop and optimize a novel process for converting the waste into a valuable product, hydroxymethylfurfural, a chemical used in the manufacture of plastics.
The project offered the dual advantages of reducing the amount of waste going to landfills or incineration, while also providing a way to make plastics from renewable sources rather than petrochemicals. An ionic liquid was used as a “green” solvent to facilitate the process and further reduce the environmental impact.
Speaking about the awards, Dr. Nancarrow said:
“Finding new ways to convert waste to valuable products is one of the keys to providing a sustainable environment for future generations. Through a combination of hard work and creative engineering, the students have developed a novel process for converting date palm waste to valuable chemicals. We are delighted that this work has been awarded ‘Most Outstanding Team-Research’ at the Sharjah Sustainability Awards.”
The Sharjah Sustainability Award promotes the concept of a sustainable green environment and was launched in 2012 under the directive of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, and with the approval of the Sharjah Executive Council.