How This Professor Discovered Seeds That Can Filter Water To Make It Drinkable

Posted: Jun 25 2018, 5:52am CDT | by , Updated: Jun 25 2018, 5:57am CDT, in Latest Science News


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How this Professor Discovered Seeds That Can Filter Water To Make It Drinkable
Credit: CMU

Moringa Oleifera Plant’s Seeds can Purify Water At A Very Low Cost.

Scarcity and access to safe drinking water are global issues, especially in the developing and third-world countries. According to UNO, more than 2.1 billion people in the world do not have access to safe and healthy water supply.

A new research paper submitted by Engineering Professors Bob Tilton and Todd Przybycien outlines a new and cheaper method of water filtration by using the seeds of Moringa Oleifera Plants.

The research paper was co-authored by three other students Brittany Nordmark, Stephanie Velegol and Toni Bechtel. The water filtration process was developed by Stephanie Velegol, who is now teaching chemistry to the students at Penn State University.

Velegol termed the new process as “F-Sand," this filtration method uses sand and plant seeds that are easily available to filter water and make it drinkable.

Moringa Oleifera plant is native to the Indian subcontinent, and it can easily be grown in tropical and subtropical regions around the world. Mostly grown for a food source and extracting its natural oils, the seeds of these plants have long been used as water purifiers on a local scale.

However, the traditional process is still imperfect and the water is drinkable only for the next 24 hours. The seeds used for water purification leave large amounts of dissolved organic carbon in the filtered water which causes the regrowth of bacteria within a short time span.

To counter this problem, Velegol extracted the proteins from the seeds and adhered them to the sand silica particles. The protein from the seeds killed harmful microorganisms and the sand decreased the turbidity level of the water to make it drinkable. F-sand system also does not allow the dissolved organic carbon to pass on to the filtered water, and it can be used for long durations.

As the seeds of Moringa oleifera plants have economic value, in start Velegol was uncertain about the cost-effectiveness of his filtering system but luckily even after oil was extracted the left-over seeds had enough proteins to efficiently kill microorganisms.

This process does not even need fractionation of the different proteins present in the seeds and the removal of fatty acids also had no effect on their water purifying properties. Removal of these steps further reduced the costs involved with the F-Sand water filter.

However, Stephanie Velegol still faced the problem of the required amount of concentration levels of the proteins. The proteins are positively charged while the silica particles are negatively charged so Velegol tested different concentrations and came up with an optimized amount of proteins and silica that are required for an effective water filter.

“There’s kind of a sweet spot in the middle,” says Tilton, “and it lies in the details of how the different proteins in these seed protein mixtures compete with each other for adsorption to the surface, which tended to broaden that sweet spot.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/2" rel="author">Luigi Lugmayr</a>
Manfred "Luigi" Lugmayr () is the founding Chief Editor of I4U News and brings over 25 years experience in the technology field to the ever evolving and exciting world of gadgets, tech and online shopping. He started I4U News back in 2000 and evolved it into vibrant technology news and tech and toy shopping hub.
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