NTU scientists are turning durian shells into bandages, soon in stores

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You may soon be able to purchase these antibacterial bandages made from durian husks in supermarkets and drugstores.

Yes that’s right, the durian shells that Singaporeans throw away after feasting on their Mao Shan Wang and D24 will receive a new lease on life, this time in the form of easing our wounds.

Durians used to heal our stomachs, now they can heal our cuts and scrapes too. Thank you mother nature and the power of science.

Professor William Chen, professor of Michael Fam and director of the food science and technology program at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) told Vulcan Post that this discovery could soon be sold in supermarkets.

Prof William Chen (left) with PhD student Cui Xi (right) / Image credit: Nanyang Technological University

Asked if the product is still patented, William said, “The innovation is protected by technology disclosure and has already been approved and licensed to a local food company to expand.”

“Based on the successful commercialization of our other technological innovations, we are confident that durian peel-based bandages would be another success story,” said William. “The main reasons for our successful commercialization are that our innovations are simple and cost-effective and also because we have worked with experienced industrial partners.”

Using food waste to create bandaged products, when scalable, is also set to be a tough competitor to other healthcare competitors in the market.

Why durian of all things?

To answer our question as to why the “random” choice of using durian shells, William shared a tearful fact: that Singapore consumes 12 million durians per year. “The skins are largely disposed of as general waste in incinerators, which adds to a huge amount of carbon footprint.”

To mitigate the problem of so much food waste, William and his team tried to experiment on these bulky discarded shells. Durian peels can account for about 60-80% of the fruit weight and are high in fiber.

The “fruit king” is now a source of antibacterial bandages, thanks to science / Image credit: Getty Images

“The platform technology extracts cellulose from fiber-rich raw materials such as soybean residues, spent beer grain and durian shells,” William said.

When pressed as to why the king of fruits and not others, he mulled that other types of products or fruits, in addition to waste products, can be researched to convert them into antibacterial bandages. “As long as they have a high level of fiber,” he said.

The research was not a walk in the park for scientists at the NTU Food Science and Technology Program, having spent about three years before they could show the current results.

These bandages were developed in line with Singapore’s drive to create a “circular economy for zero waste food processing”.

Singapore consumes 12 million durians annually / Image credit: Getty Images

William noted that the innovation – turning durian waste into antibacterial bandages – is a breakthrough, as seen with the worldwide media coverage of the likes of Reuters and the World Economic Forum.

How do they do it

After the durian husks are sliced ​​and freeze-dried, a process extracts the cellulose powder from the products.

The peels are converted into “high quality” cellulose powder through slicing, freeze drying, ball grinding and removal of impurities.

The powder is then mixed with glycerol and the mixture becomes a soft hydrogel, which is then cut into strips of bandages.

A process extracts the cellulose powder from the husks / Image credit: Nanyang Technological University

Scientists later add organic molecules produced by Baker’s yeast, making the bandages deadly to bacteria.

The hydrogel is known to help wounds heal faster as the water content in the gel keeps the wound area cool and moist. This component is also known to reduce scarring.

A soft hydrogel is created and cut into strips of bandages / Image credit: Nanyang Technological University

The use case for these hydrogels goes beyond simple bandages, as there are various applications, including wound dressing and even wearable electronics.

Biodegradable, economical and ecological

The low-cost bandage is both biodegradable and non-toxic, which means it has a lower environmental impact than conventional synthetic bandages, William said. They also provide a more “natural” solution for wound healing.

Conventional hydrogel patches on the market are made from synthetic materials. Those with antimicrobial properties use metal compounds such as silver or copper ions.

These materials make conventional hydrogel patches more expensive than “waste durian” hydrogels, which are made from natural materials.

Durian peel-based hydrogel plaster dressing / Image credit: Nanyang Technological University

This means that manufacturers can expect a “significant reduction” in costs compared to traditional methods.

According to William, the traditional method of using enzymes costs about S $ 27,000 per kilogram, while the school’s research method costs about S $ 120 per kilogram to extract the same amount of cellulose.

To simply break it down, a three-kilogram durian, for example, can create 200 grams of peel powder, of which 40 grams is pure cellulose. These 40 grams are enough to make about 66 pieces of hydrogel patches of seven cm by seven cm, enough material to spread over 1,600 regular patches.

The hydrogel keeps the wound area cool and moist / Image credit: Nanyang Technological University

He added that the bandages are biodegradable and, because they are organic in nature, they should have a lower environmental impact than conventional synthetic bandages.

Anti-durian people don’t care, the bandages don’t smell like fruit

As for the readers who are going crazy reading this article due to the fear of the smell of durians next time when a commuter next to you wears this natural “hip” bandage on his wound, you don’t have to worry about that.

According to William, the bandages are odorless. There are certainly no plans to introduce antibacterial bandages that come with the smell of durians, although it could be a snack.


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Featured Image Credit: Nanyang Technological University

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