TAU researcher invents ecological disinfectant

The fight against the coronavirus began with disinfection and hygiene. Professor Hadas Mamane, head of the Water Technology Laboratory at TAU’s Iby & Aladar Fleischman College of Engineering, is now helping to secure Israel’s supply of disinfectant in the ongoing battle against the spread of the coronavirus. His laboratory is running a pilot program to convert local waste into alcohol to be used for sanitation and disinfection.

In the COVID-19 era, global demand for alcohol-based disinfectants skyrocketed as proper hygiene and sanitation became mainstays of prevention efforts. However, at the same time, many countries, including Israel, imposed import restrictions, making it difficult to purchase sanitary materials and disinfectants. To address this shortage, a team led by Prof. Mamane adapted an existing waste conversion model to produce alcohol sanitizer locally.

Professor Mamane’s team began by conducting an experiment to produce ethanol, an alcohol derived from corn and the most common ingredient in hand sanitizers and other sanitizers. As a local alternative to corn, Professor Mamane verified a variety of waste sources. He experimented with municipal and agricultural pruning waste, hay, paper and cardboard.

Prof. Mamane continues the project using more types of green waste, testing the process on a larger scale and studying its profitability. Because its method is based on locally sourced material, it offers a decentralized model for ethanol production that reduces dependence on imports.

Mamane’s production method not only reuses the almost infinite supply of garbage, but also reduces the overhead on waste management systems. The process does not use hazardous materials or cause pollution, it can be applied on a small or large scale and is applicable to various types and large amounts of waste.

This initiative has pervasive additional benefits: “A decentralized [recycling] process enables farmers to avoid burning their agricultural waste and instead offers environmental and social benefits to the community and, most importantly, protects public health,” he says. Prof. Mamane.

This research is a collaboration between Prof. Mamane and the University of Haifa-Oranim College, and is funded by the Ministry of Science.

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