Between social media and reality TV, it can be disheartening to think that some kids are ignorant or just apathetic when comes to caring about real world issues like environmental conservation or social justice. However, that is not the case for South African sixteen-year-old Kiara Nirghin, who  just received the Google Science Fairs Community Impact Award for the Middle East and Africa with her project entitled “No More Thirsty Crops.”

The innovative teenager used a combination of orange peels and avocado skins to create a groundbreaking hyper absorbent polymer sap that can hold vessels of water up to one hundred times its own weight. Not only is the polymer sap cost effective, but since it’s made out of fruit peels it’s sustainable and eco-friendly. Once Nirghin discovered that orange peels are made up of 64 percent polysaccharide and that their pectin acts as an excellent gelling agent, she knew she was on to something and combined with the oil in avocado skin could use them to her benefit.

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With South Africa experiencing the worst drought in recorded history, this plant-based polymer sap’s design could be a lifesaver. And with climate change on the rise, Nirghin’s design could be utilized not just in South Africa but all over the world. An estimated four billion people face severe water scarcity and as the effects of climate change increase, this number is only set to increase. With two billion people relying on ground water to drink, and aquifers being depleted at an alarming rate, this polymer sap design could be a revolutionary game-changer in the way people access fresh water.

Nirghin’s cutting-edge design has allowed her to be assigned a mentor from Google who will assist her with continuing to develop the design of the polymer, and if her hard work pays off, she may be selected to be one of Tech Giant’s sixteen global finalists.

One thing is for certain, Nirghin has a bright future ahead of her and this polymer sap design isn’t the only bright idea she’s been cooking up. She has another proposal in the works to dye the skins of animals to decrease their chances of being poached. As for schooling, she’s considering health sciences of engineering and wants to work in a field where she can “improve the world.” Talk about inspiring. This 16-year-old should be a role model who we all aspire to.

Image source: Google Science Fair