A green reason to love the durian

NTU researchers have found a way to extract pectin from durian husks and turn it into biodegradable packaging materials.
NTU researchers have found a way to extract pectin from durian husks and turn it into biodegradable packaging materials.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Researchers at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have found a way to turn durian husks into biodegradable packaging materials.

Pectin is a natural part of the human diet, and can be found in fruits and vegetables. Most fruits - like pears and apples - contain large amounts of pectin.

While pectin can be used to make jam hold its structure, or in some medical adhesives, Professor William Chen, director of NTU's food science and technology programme, has found a way to extract pectin from durian husks and turn it into biodegradable packaging materials.

To do so, the husks are cut, then ground and shredded to produce a cellulose powder.

This is then used to create sheets of the biodegradable material.

The material is shiny and slightly cloudy - and can be degraded within a month if it is put in the soil. If required, the material's colouring can be changed by introducing colour into the cellulose shreds.

While pectin can be used to make jam hold its structure, or in some medical adhesives, Professor William Chen, director of NTU's food science and technology programme, has found a way to extract pectin from durian husks and turn it into biodegradable packaging materials.

Prof Chen and his team are in talks with several food and beverage companies to work on commercialising the material.

Cheryl Teh

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 02, 2019, with the headline 'A green reason to love the durian'. Print Edition | Subscribe