Singapore scientists turn durian husks into bandages

The soft yellow flesh of a durian inside its spiky green peel is seen in a shop in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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Some love it and some hate it.

Durians are banned on all public transport in Singapore because of their smell – which some have likened to sewage or smelly socks. Some hotels in Southeast Asia even forbid their guests to bring fruit into the rooms.

However, some durian fans are willing to pay top dollar for the “king of fruit” – someone reportedly parted with a whopping $48,000 for one in 2019.

But there may be a new reason to appreciate the prickly fruit.

Scientists in Singapore are using durian peels to make antibacterial dressings they say can heal postoperative wounds.

Redirected peels

Technology – Developed by a team of researchers at Nanyang Technological University of Singapore (NTU) – uses an inexpensive program A process for extracting cellulose from thick green fruit peels. Cellulose is mixed with glycerol to produce a soft, silicone-like gel that can be cut to produce plasters, according to the university.

As long as Singaporeans keep eating durian, we can keep making these dressings.

William Chen

Researcher at Nanyang Technological University

Twitter erupted with questions, and many focused on one thing: the pungent smell of the fruit.

Some have wondered if the smell of durian is strong Bandages can be detected, or If the wearer is banned from public buses.

Chen insisted that the bandages were odorless.

Others joked about it, with one saying – tongue in cheek – it’s that It was no surprise that durian patches can kill bacteria.

Despite the backlash, researchers say the innovation could help solve a serious environmental problem: food waste.

“It is in line with our drive to develop innovations to reduce food waste as a whole,” said William Chen, director of the Food Science and Technology Program at NTU and the principal investigator behind the innovation.

The experience of Professor William Chen and a member of his team on durian peels.

NTU Singapore

At least one durian seller is excited about the prospects.

“This invention…a great way to recycle the peel,” James Wong, who sells durian in Singapore, told CNBC. He said durian peels are currently being discarded and he pays waste disposal companies to disinfect them. “Being able to sell the shell for the money is so much better.”

80% of the weight of the fruit

Chen told CNBC that food in Singapore is relatively cheap because it is very subsidized by the government.

“The downside to this affordable and plentiful food is that we don’t really value the food,” he said.

Scientists at Nanyang Technological University have developed a hydrogel pad made from recycled durian peels.

NTU Singapore

To alleviate the problem of food waste, Chen decided to try durian peel, a substance that is usually discarded after consuming the soft yellow pulp of the fruit. The peel can account for about 80% of the weight of the fruit.

The researcher said durian was picking the fruit for several reasons.

Large fruits like durian give scientists the volume to work with. It also has a high fiber content, which makes it suitable for operation.

The availability of durian was also a factor, Chen said.

“Singapore consumes 12 million leagues a year,” he said. “As long as Singaporeans keep eating durian, we can keep making these dressings.”

Pros and cons

According to Chen, dressings made from durian peels are both ecologically and medicinally beneficial. Unlike existing plasters, new dressings contain hydrogels, which can protect wounds and keep them moist.

Some medical experts are collaborators with the innovation as well.

“The hydrogel dressings produced from durian peel perform as well as those on the market,” said Associate Professor Andrew Tan, an expert in metabolic disorders at the NTU School of Medicine, who is not part of the dressings project.

The hydrogel provides moisture that helps remove infected tissue and encourage healing, he said, adding that “hydrogels may also cool the wound which helps relieve pain.”

People wait in line to buy durian in Singapore on June 24, 2021.

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“I’ve always believed that nature has the answers to everything,” said Priyadarshani Kamat, a homeopath in Singapore. “In the past, I’ve seen how dressings made from potato peels help burn victims recover their skin quickly, and this [durian] A hydrogel is similar to that.”

Durian dressings are not intended to replace all dressings – not yet anyway. Tan noted that they are not suitable for severe wounds, as they are mostly composed of water.

It is also not 100% biodegradable. Chen said that while the team was able to replace the soft, cushioned layer with durian hydrogel, the outer adhesive portion is still made of plastic.

However, Chen and his team hope to bring durian peel dressings to market within the next two years.

It makes me feel a little better about indulging in durian because I know the peels can be used for a good reason.

Shen Yi Lin

Singaporean student

“I want to turn the research into something useful for society,” Chen told CNBC.

He added that such innovations should not replace the need to reduce waste. “We don’t want these innovations to fight fires while increasing waste – the idea is to reduce it at its source,” he said.

After hearing Qin’s research, one durian lover felt better eating the fruit.

“I know that durian peels, especially during durian season, contribute to a lot of waste,” said Singapore student Shen Yi Lin, a self-proclaimed durian fanatic. “It makes me feel a little better about indulging in durian because I know the peels can be used for a good reason.”

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