A Sweet Deal: Sugarcane Can Be A Source of Light

A team of researchers from India has discovered a novel use for sugarcane pulp. Bagasse, or sugarcane waste, could be turned into a source of highly fluorescent carbon quantum dots, cutting down the amount of agricultural waste generated by sugarcane plantations and providing a new source of light.

“In our study, we developed a simple, low-cost and efficient method for green synthesis of fluorescent carbon quantum dots from sugarcane bagasse,” said Dr. Ravi Shankaran Dhesingh, co-author of the paper that was published in Applied Surface Science. An associate professor at the National Centre for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology at the University of Madras, Chennai, India, Shankaran has found that these dots are minute carbon nanoparticles, about four nanometers across, and could emit light.

Environmentally beneficial and non-toxic, these carbon quantum dots can serve as biosensors in light-emitting diodes and deliver drugs around the human body. For example, researchers have injected liquids containing carbon quantum dots into a living body to image it from the inside.

“Huge quantities of agricultural residues, rice husks, sugarcane bagasse and coconut husks, are produced annually around the world, and these are vastly underutilized,” Dr. Shankaran said. He and his team of researchers cut the sugarcane bagasse into small pieces and sun-dried it for six days. After burning the dry bagasse, they chemically oxidized and exfoliated it.

For every three tons of sugarcane crushed to produce sugar in a factory, around one ton of bagasse is left behind. This new method could effectively remove agricultural waste from the environment since over 90 countries produce sugarcane, and along with it, sugarcane waste.

“The conversion of solid waste to functional nanomaterials provides a new avenue in solid-waste management, as well as in the production of novel materials,” Dr. Shankaran concluded. “This agricultural waste is a renewable and sustainable resource, which makes the work a promising example of the concept of waste to wealth.”


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