Scientists at the University of Alicante, Spain, have developed a method of producing microporous carbons from organic products. These carbons can then be modified to produce ‘active carbons': a process involving the introduction of additional elements into their structure. This gives them specific chemical properties, such as the ability to absorb certain other elements. In addition, inorganic composites of carbons, inorganic oxides and phosphates have been synthesized, which also have porous structures and affinities for particular elements. All of these materials have potentially important industrial applications as chemical filters and catalysts. The materials can be produced in granular or fibrous forms and, in some cases, the relevant technology for their production has already been tested at the scale of a pilot plant. As well as representing a step forward for the chemical industry, this technology could also give value to some of the millions of tons of fruit that rots every year before it reaches the mouths of consumers. This might translate into a significant financial boost for fruit farmers, particularly in the Third World.