Moringa oleifera, also called the "miracle tree," is being used by scientists to economically produce clean drinking water in developing countries.
The latest episode in the American Chemical Society's (ACS) award-winning "Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions" podcast series describes how the seeds of the plant can be used to produce clean drinking water.
The new 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, according to the scientists.
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.
Past research showed that a protein in Moringa seeds can clean water, explained Stephanie B. Velegol, Ph.D., a researcher at Pennsylvania State University, in the podcast.
One approach creates water that cannot be stored, and the other approach is too expensive and complicated. The researchers wanted to develop a simpler and less expensive way to harness 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, Velegol noted.
The research has been published in the ACS's journal Langmuir.