“Tunol against a silent enemy: carbon monoxide”
.These fifth and sixth year students from the Agricultural Technical Provincial School No. 7 (named“Ing. Ricardo Jorge Hueda") in Perico, in the Province of Jujuy, Argentina, together with their chemistry teacher, started a project related to the problem of environmental pollution by carbon monoxide.
The project aims to contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases produced by the burning of fossil fuels in the area, although the main concern is related to indoor air pollution. This concern arose in the classroom due to the complications derived from the use of coal in heaters and cookers. The students carried out research and debated about the material that could substitute coal and how, and tested the effects of using a plant called tuna (prickly pear)as a replacement.
The students focused on the study of the tunato replace coal, which is dangerous and is used by the majority of the population to cook and heat homes and rooms.
Thetuna is a plant of the cactus species that can be found in the northern part of Argentina, among other regions. It requires little or no care and is rich in glucose and that is the reason why a substance capable of combustion can be obtained from it and replace the use of coal in homes.
The protagonists of the experience planted tunasin a sector of the school, which were the raw material of their studies. The experiments demonstrated that the excipients of the plant are adequate to replace the carbon owing to the fact that they do no emit toxic fumes.
In the school laboratory, they tested the penca(leaf) from which they extract the mucilage, agluey substance from which the bioethanol is obtained, which they called “tunol”. This fuel has the characteristic of emitting combustion that is not harmful. In addition, the waste from the plant is used to fertilize lands, which turns this project into an ecological proposal as well.
The students from the technical school also did field work by interviewing people of some of the homes in the neighbourhood. The surveys they conducted were aimed at obtaining information from neighbours about the type of fuel they used to ignite fires and whether they knew the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning or not.
The students worked on the topic of the environment at the curricular level, providing information to the population. The bioethanol, obtained after several tests, was delivered to two families in a trial stage. The beneficiaries gave information by means of surveys and interviews, for example, they described the amount of tunol needed to perform simple tasks such as cooking or heating a room.
The students are holding talks with these bioethanol users and carrying out a thorough follow-up so that in the coming months they can deliver the fuel to other homes. By December 2018, the school had chosen 10 families who will be the next recipients of the product obtained and who will be trained so that they can produce the liquid in the future.
This school is a finalist in the Presidential Prize “Solidary Schools 2018¨ awarded by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and Technology of the Argentine Republic.