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Prince uses date stones to decrease air and water pollution

New research by a Saudia Arabian prince could see the millions of date stones disposed of in Saudi Arabia each year used to decrease air and water pollution.

HRH Abdulrahman Bandar Al-Saud, 34, a nephew of the King, is studying for a PhD in the United Kingdom at Queen’s University Belfast’s School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering.

His research is based on the premise that date stones can be used to develop activated carbon with a high adsorption capacity.

Activated carbon is a form of the element that has been processed to make it extremely porous with a very large surface area available for adsorption*.

This can then be used to remove pollutants – an area of great importance for Saudi Arabia when managing its water resources.

The high price of activated carbon means it is important for researchers to look into methods of making the element from waste products.

Date stones have adsorbancy properties which may make them suitable and it is expected the Prince’s product will perform as well as the more expensive commercially available carbons.

The Prince explained: “The focus of the project will be on the removal of heavy metals from industrial effluents and other pollutants such as colour dyes.

“The developed carbons will be tested in batch systems before they are tried in a pilot plant and finally in full-scale industrial applications. The results will also be modelled mathematically in order to be able to predict the effectiveness of the treatment process.”

The Prince is joined in Saudi Arabia this week by world-leading researchers from Queen’s, a member of the Russell Group of the UK’s top 20 leading research-intensive universities.

At the invitation of the Prince, the Queen’s academics are meeting with leading industrialists and top universities to explore exchange visits of academic staff, joint training of postgraduate students and training of staff from Saudi universities in specialist research methodologies.

Professor Robbie Burch, Head of the School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering said the trip was a valuable opportunity to develop the School’s international collaborations: “The outcome of a recent assessment of research being carried out at universities in the UK placed Queen’s School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering in the top 20 in the UK.

"An earlier metrics-based analysis of research outputs placed the School of Chemistry as number one in the UK. This is a timely opportunity to meet with senior staff in three top universities in Saudi Arabia with a view to expanding our international research programmes.

“The strong existing connection with Prince Abdulrahman gives us credibility in Saudi Arabia and will facilitate the meetings to discuss research areas of common interest during this visit. The longer term objective is to develop collaborations with Saudi Arabia comparable to those that we currently have with countries such as Malaysia.”

HRH Abdulrahman Bandar Al-Saud is one of a growing number of students from Saudi Arabia choosing to study at Queen’s. The University is currently investing £259 million in its staff, student facilities and research and education programmes.

His Highness decided to come to Queen’s University to carry out his study because of its focus on research excellence. He said: “I chose Queen’s University Belfast because of its excellent reputation for engineering and its distinguished record in chemical engineering research. Northern Ireland is an often overlooked destination which has much to offer students from Saudi Arabia.”

Head of School Professor Robbie Burch, Professor Chris Hardacre, who is Director of Research at CenTACat (the Centre for the Theory and Application of Catalysis), and the Prince’s supervisor Dr Mohammad Ahmed will meet senior managers and departmental heads at King Saud University, King Abdul Aziz University and Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals.

The Queen’s delegation will be at the following venues this week and anyone wishing to find out more about studying at the University is welcome to attend:

January 24 and 25 – 4.30 to 9pm at Al Yamamah College, Riyadh

January 27 and 28 – 4.30 to 9pm at Jeddah Chamber of Chamber of Commerce and Industry

January 31 and February – 4.30 to 9pm at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the Eastern Province, Dammam

Anyone seeking further information on studying at Queen’s can visit

* Not to be confused with absorption, adsorption is a process that occurs when a gas or liquid solute accumulates on the surface of a solid or a liquid (adsorbent), forming a film of molecules or atoms (the adsorbate). It is different from absorption, in which a substance diffuses into a liquid or solid to form a solution.

Lisa Mitchell | alfa
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