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   Jun 19

Seed originated in India can solve water scarcity problems all over the world

The Moringa oleifera seed, commonly found in India, can be the solution to water crises all over the world and help supply clean water to millions, according to a team of scientists from Carnegie Mellon University.

This seed is commonly grown in the foothills of Himalayas in the northern regions of India. Moringa oleifera is grown in tropical and subtropical regions where people commonly use it as a vegetable or traditional herbal medicine.

It is known as the drumstick tree and shows extraordinary drought resistant properties. The presence of several proteins in it makes it useful for water purification. People living in areas where it grows also use it for washing hands.

Scientific research determines the seed’s purification properties

Professors from Carnegie Mellon’s Biomedical Engineering and Chemical Engineering department recently published a paper about how the Moringa oleifera seed could be of major significance in providing fresh water in all water scarce regions.

A water filtration method called ‘F-sand’ was developed by these professors which used materials such as sand and plant parts which are easily available in developing nations. This water purification medium is cheap and effective.

How does F-sand technique work?

This new filtration method called F-sand has a very effective and easy working. Moringa oleifera was already used for water purification techniques but it proved to be ineffective as the high amount of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) was left behind and the water was undrinkable after 24 hours.

In the paper, the professors combined this purification with sand filtration which made this process more efficient. The protein from Moringa oleifera seeds are extracted and absorbed on the surface of silica, which is a component of sand.

When water is filtered through the protein covered silica granules, the DOC is separated and the turbidity of the water is significantly decreased. F-sand kills most of the microorganisms and makes the water usable for a longer duration of time.

Can this technique be improved further?

While publishing this paper, the authors faced several questions about techniques which could lead to big improvements in this filtration method.

The first technique tried was called fractionation, which means the extraction of all the different proteins from the seed, to see which protein could prove to be more beneficial for the filtration process.

Other than this, the authors also wanted to check if the extraction of fatty acids and oils will have any effect on the filtration process.

It was later observed that both these processes will have little to no effect on the absorption of proteins on silica or the overall filtration process.

The importance of Moringa oleifera protein concentration

The proteins extracted from the seeds are absorbed by silica but the concentration of this protein is very essential for the filtration to work. Perfect concentration can be achieved by ensuring that there is enough positive charge in the proteins to cancel out the negative charge in the silica particles.

After achieving this concentration, the filtration process can be used for water purification as well as conserving several substances but if the concentration is not perfect, the filtered water can be contaminated.

Advantage of F-sand technique

The most prominent advantage of this technique is that it is effective in both hard water and soft water. This means that this technique will be successful in different regions with different types of water conditions.

The professors also concluded their paper by saying that this method is very cost effective and can improve the conditions of many developing nations. The f-sand technique shows a lot of flexibility and can be used in different regions with ease.

According to the UN, more than 2.1 billion people in the world don’t have access to clean drinking water and the promotion of this technique can solve this problem.

Source: India Today

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