Indian Scientists develop non-toxic activated carbon using tea & banana waste

by Team Conscious Carma

A team of scientists have used tea and banana waste to prepare non-toxic activated carbon which is useful for several purposes like industrial pollution control, water purification, food and beverage processing and odour removal. The newly developed process avoids usage of any toxic agent for synthesizing activated carbon thus making the product cost effective as well as non-toxic.

Dr. N. C. Talukdar, Former Director, Institute of Advanced Study in Science and Technology (IASST), Guwahati an autonomous institute of the Department of Science & Technology, Govt. of India and Dr. Devasish Chowdhury, Associate Professor, used banana plant extract as an alternative activating agent for the preparation of activated carbon from tea wastes. Oxygenated potassium compounds contained in the banana plant extract help in activating the carbon prepared from tea waste. An Indian patent has recently been granted for this.


The banana plant extract used in the process was prepared by traditional way and is known as Khar which is an alkaline extract from the ashes of burnt dried banana peels. The most preferred banana for this is called ‘Bheem Kol’ in Assamese. Bheem Kol is an indigenous variety of banana found only in Assam and parts of North East India. To make khar , first the peel of the banana is dried and then burnt to make ash out of it. The ash is then crushed and made into a fine powder. Then using a clean cotton cloth, water is filtered through the ash powder and the final solution that we get is called khar. The natural khar which is extracted from banana is called ‘Kol Khar’ or ‘Kola Khar’. This extract was used as the activating agent.

IASST team explains, “The reason for the use of tea as a precursor for the synthesis of active carbon is that in tea structure, the carbon atoms are conjugated and having polyphenols bond. This makes the quality of activated carbon better compared to other carbon precursors.”

The main advantage in this process is that starting material as well as activating agents are both waste materials. In the developed process use of any toxic activating agent (e.g., toxic acids and bases) for synthesizing active carbon are avoided. Thus, this process is green for the first time plant materials have been used as an activating agent for the first time. This novel process of synthesizing of active carbon makes the product cost effective as well as non-toxic.

About Institute of Advanced Study in Science and Technology (IASST)

Institute of Advanced Study in Science and Technology (IASST) is a premier scientific research organization in the north-east region, IASST was conceived and nurtured by the Assam Science Society in its initial years and was inaugurated by Noble Laureate Dorothy C. Hodgkin on 3rd November 1979. Subsequently, it was supported by the state govt. as its only autonomous R&D institute till March 2009. The institute was taken over in March 2009 by the Ministry of Science and Technology, Govt of India as one of its autonomous R&D Institutes.

The Institute is engaged in multidisciplinary research activities, both in fundamental and applied, across frontier areas of science and technology such as Plasma Physics, Polymer Sciences, Biochemistry, Drug Design & Development, Nano-science, Medicinal Plants, Seri Biotechnology, Microbial Biotechnology, Environmental Sciences, Microbial Fuel Cell, etc.

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