Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions

Supplying Safe Drinking Water: “Miracle tree” substance produces clean drinking water inexpensively and sustainably

February 27, 2012


“Miracle tree” substance produces
clean drinking water inexpensively
and sustainably.
Credit: iStock.

Summary

A natural substance obtained from seeds of the
“miracle tree” could purify and clarify water
inexpensively and sustainably in the developing
world, where more than 1 billion people lack
access to clean drinking water, scientists report.
Research on the potential of a sustainable
water-treatment process requiring only tree
seeds and sand appears in ACS’ journal Langmuir.

Today’s solution uses the seeds of the “miracle tree” to produce clean drinking water. The water-treatment process requiring only tree seeds and sand could purify and clarify water inexpensively and sustainably in the developing world, where more than 1 billion people lack access to clean drinking water, scientists report.

Removing the disease-causing microbes and sediment from drinking water requires technology not always available in rural areas of developing countries. For an alternative approach, scientists looked to Moringa oleifera, also called the “miracle tree,” a plant grown in equatorial regions for food, traditional medicine and biofuel. The research appears in ACS’ journal Langmuir.

Here’s the study’s lead author Stephanie B. Velegol, Ph.D., a researcher at Pennsylvania State University:

“Past research showed that a protein in Moringa seeds can clean water. One approach creates water that could not be stored and the other approach is too expensive and complicated. We wanted to develop a simpler and less expensive way to utilize the seeds’ power.”

To do that, they added an extract of the seed containing the positively charged Moringa protein, which binds to sediment and kills microbes, to negatively charged sand.

“The resulting ‘functionalized,’ or ‘f-sand,’ proved effective in capturing lab-grown E. coli and damaging their membranes. The f-sand was also able to remove sediment from water samples. The results open the possibility that f-sand can provide a simple, locally sustainable process for producing storable drinking water.”

Smart Chemists/Innovative Thinking

Smart chemists. Innovative thinking. That’s the key to solving global challenges of the 21st Century. Please check out more of our full-length podcasts on wide-ranging issues facing chemistry and science, such as promoting public health, developing new fuels and confronting climate change, at www.acs.org/GlobalChallenges For the American Chemical Society, I’m Sara Rouhi.