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Sustainable water-treatment process using tree seeds

By Tim Sandle
Posted Jan 29, 2012 in Science
A material derived from seeds of a tree, sometimes called the "miracle tree", could purify and clarify water inexpensively and sustainably in the developing world, where many millions of people lack access to clean drinking water. Research, led by Stephanie Velegol, on the potential of a sustainable water-treatment process requiring only tree seeds and sand has been reported in the journal Langmuir.
Velegol looked to Moringa oleifera, also called the "miracle tree," a plant grown in equatorial regions for food, traditional medicine and biofuel. Past research showed that a protein in Moringa seeds can clean water, but using the approach was too expensive and complicated. So Velegol's team sought to develop a simpler and less expensive method.
To achieve this, the researchers added an extract of the seed containing the positively charged Moringa protein, which binds to sediment and kills many microorganisms, to negatively charged sand. The resulting "functionalized," or "f-sand," proved effective in killing harmful E. coli bacteria and removing sediment from water samples. The results could lead to applications using f-sand to provide a simple, locally sustainable process for producing storable drinking water.
The moringa tree is grown mainly in semi-arid, tropical, and subtropical areas, corresponding in the United States to USDA hardiness zones 9 and 10. While it grows best in dry sandy soil, it tolerates poor soil, including coastal areas. It is a fast-growing, drought-resistant tree that is native to the southern foothills of the Himalayas in northwestern India.
The journal reference is: Huda A. Jerri, Kristin J. Adolfsen, Lauren R. McCullough, Darrell Velegol, Stephanie B. Velegol. Antimicrobial Sand via Adsorption of Cationic Moringa oleifera Protein. Langmuir, 2011.
To read more: ACS

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