South African teen, Kiara Nirghin wins Grand Prize at Google Science Fair

Kiara Nirghin, a 16 year-old South African student who attends St. Martin’s Anglican private school in Rosettenville, Johannesburg has been awarded the grand prize winner of the 2016 Google Science Fair.

Nirghin was awarded the grand prize of almost R700k [$50,000], in scholarship funding, for her “fighting drought with fruit” submission or more scientifically known as Combatting drought with a low-cost, biodegradable superabsorbent polymer made out of orange peels.

Watch a short summary of her groundbreaking idea

In her online submission Nirghin explains that she conducted three experiments over 45 days to see if she could make a superabsorbent polymer (SAP) out of bio-waste that outperforms existing synthetic SAPs.

‘‘After conducting three experiments that spanned over 45 days, that tested: the water absorption abilities, resulting soil moisture and growth of a produced plant, given off by Starch SAP (super-absorbent polymers), Pectin SAP, Acrylic SAP and various forms of orange peel variables, I accept my hypothesis.

‘‘The results of the water retention test showed that the ‘Orange peel mixture’ can absorb 76.1% of water, which is significantly greater than the acrylic SAP, starch SAP and pectin SAP.

‘‘My experiments support my hypothesis as the ‘Orange peel mixture’ when applied to soil maintained the greatest average soil moisture and the Ocimum Sanctum plant had the most flowers, the greatest height and healthiest appearance in the ‘orange peel mixture’ treated soil,’‘ she noted in the conclusion of her report.

She added that she hoped to apply her solution on fields in South Africa as a means of helping farmers to save money and their crops.

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