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Redeemer varsity don bags NAS award for innovation

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President of Nigerian Academy of Science (NAS), Prof. Mosto Onuoha (left); Winner of the NAS Gold award for invention, Dr. Emmanuel Unuabonah and Chair, Science Prize Committee, NAS, Prof. Gabriel Ogunmola, at the induction of fellows and presentation of 2017 NAS Gold Medal/ Medalist’s lecture, held in Abuja.

An Associate Professor of Chemistry, Redeemers’ University, Ede, Dr. Emmanuel Unuabonah, has bagged the Nigerian Academy of Science (NAS) award for his invention, which aimed to curb deaths arising from harmful pathogens from drinking water.
 
The award was presented to him at the Induction of Fellows and Presentation of 2017 NAS Gold Medal/Medalist’s Lecture with the theme: “Functional Clays: Potent Charms for Water Pollutants”, in Abuja.
 
The NAS, which was established in 1977, has since inception in 1977, inducted 229 indigenes with three from abroad.
  
Speaking at the ceremony, the President of NAS, Prof. Mosto Onuoha, said the NAS exists to promote the growth, acquisition and dissemination of scientific knowledge in Nigeria, and to facilitate the use of science in the solution of problems of national interest.
  
Onuoha said the Academy does this in a variety of ways, including the provision of advice on specific problems of a scientific and technological nature, presented to it by the government and its agencies, “as well as by private organizations. We strive to establish and maintain the highest standards of scientific endeavour and achievement in Nigeria.”
  
According to him, there was no winner in the first year of the award, but a winner was declared by the Jury appointed for the assessment of the applications received in 2017 in the area of the Physical Sciences. Dr. Emmanuel Unuabonah, NAS is pleased with his contribution to the solution of a basic problem dealing with water quality and purification and we look forward to another winner emerging from this year’s entries in the area of the Life Sciences. 
 
Explaining his invention, Unuabonah to address the issue of harmful pathogens in drinking water and the problem of carcinogenic by-products from chlorination process, he and his research team developed a new composite material from Carica papaya seeds (paw paw seeds) and Kaolinite clay which are abundant materials in Nigeria.
  
“By doping the composite material with a biocidal metal (Zinc) which is relatively not harmful to humans, we converted the composite material into an efficient water disinfectant that is able to reduce very high levels of Samonella typhi and Vibrio cholerae in 7.2 litres of polluted water (of ca. 1.5 × 106 cfu/mL) to zero over several hours of up to 15 hours using just two grammes of the composite.”

“At twice the alert/action levels of these bacteria in water (1000 cfu/mL), the same two grammes of this new composite material was able to keep the levels of these bacteria at zero for over 24 hours in 11.5 litres of pathogen ladened water.  Although small amounts of Zinc were found in the treated water, it was far less than the World Health Organization (WHO) set limit for Zinc in drinking water. In the amount found in the treated water, it is helpful to human health since it is needed for the body’s defensive (immune) system to properly work and for cell division and cell growth. This same new disinfecting composite material was recently functionalized with an Organosilane and was used to recover phosphate anions from water with the possibility of using these recovered phosphates for replenishing nutrient in soils,” he stated.
  
According to him, the team observed that these captured phosphates were efficiently and quickly recovered from the composite material while the composite material maintained its efficiency over five reuse cycles that were conducted for a period of 96 hours.  “This finds very strong application in agriculture where the recovered phosphates from polluted water could be used for soil fertility especially with the decline in global phosphate reserves. This could boost the global food security programme,” he stated.

A member of the Prize Commitee, Prof. Soga Sofola, said the award will be the highest science award in the country.


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