Kiara Nirghin competed with students from around the world for a US$50,000 scholarship. The student at St Martin’s High School in Johannesburg won for her proposal to create a highly-absorbent, cheap material out of orange peel to help parched soil retain water.
She said ‘I absolutely love the captivating subjects of chemistry and physics in school’ but also revealed a love of baking. In her submission, she said ‘I hope to one day become a scientist specializing in agricultural science and a molecular gastronomist.’
Her project was a response to widespread and frequent drought in South Africa. She conducted three experiments over 45 days.
She wanted to develop a material that would ‘retain large amounts of water, keep soil moist and improve crop growth without regular water supplements.’
In her online submission, she recommended the orange peel mixtures for its various qualities. ‘The product is fully biodegradable, low-cost and has better water retaining properties than commercial SAPs. The only resources involved in the creation of the ‘orange peel mixture’ were electricity and time, no special equipment nor materials were required.’
She also said she wished ‘to continue my studies in science’ and ‘extend scientific progress in elevating the problems that South Africa faces in food security and sustainable agricultural development.’
With young scientists like these, the future looks orange.