• Tech Tech

Researchers discover heating fish scales transforms them into absorbents of water contaminants: '[Addressing] huge economic and environmental concerns'

"A solution is a welcome development."

"At a time when many are calling on the fishing industry to reform its wasteful and destructive practices ... a solution is a welcome development."

Photo Credit: iStock

Physicists from the National University of Singapore have developed a new method of using fish scale waste to remove pollutants from water, Futurity reported. Their findings could help address two major problems at once — cleaning water that has been contaminated by a toxic dye while also preventing tons of organic matter from being dumped in landfills.

The method, described in detail in the journal Nature Communications, involves heating the fish scales to an optimal temperature, at which point they become an adsorbent for Rhodamine B, a pink dye used in textiles, paper, paints, and water flow tracing agents. 

Though the effects of Rhodamine B on humans are still being studied, it has been linked to kidney and liver damage, as well as stomach tumors.

Using fish scales to remove this harmful pollutant from water supplies is a particularly elegant solution, as the scales are largely treated as a waste product by the global fishing industry. Millions of tons of fish waste are discarded yearly — much of it ends up sitting in landfills, where it releases planet-overheating gases as it breaks down. 

According to one study, "It has been estimated that about two-thirds of the total amount of fish is discarded as waste, creating huge economic and environmental concerns."

"As the global population grows and resources become more limited, sustainability involves greater emphasis on reusing waste materials," said Professor Sow Chorng Haur of the National University of Singapore physics department, who led the research.

"Globally, an estimated 7.2-12 million tons of fish waste is projected to be discarded yearly. This makes fish scale waste an abundant resource for upcycling. By re-evaluating waste streams, fascinating properties and multifunctionalities can be discovered in materials that may have been overlooked previously."

At a time when many are calling on the fishing industry to reform its wasteful and destructive practices and to become more sustainable for future generations, a solution that allows at least some of that waste to be repurposed for good is a welcome development.

Join our free newsletter for weekly updates on the coolest innovations improving our lives and saving our planet.

Cool Divider