Miracle Tree Seeds and Sand Produce Inexpensive Clean Water

woodleywonderworks/CC BY 2.0

Lack of access to clean drinking water is a huge problem for many people in the world, and their only recourse is to drink the water at hand, which may be contaminated and dirty. One of the big issues in supplying clean water to those communities is the cost of the technology to do so, but a new method for water purification using just sand and tree seeds could be the answer to inexpensive and sustainable drinking water.

Researchers from Pennsylvania State University knew that earlier studies showed that a substance from the seeds of the miracle tree, or Moringa oleifera, was able to clean water, but that the processes used in those studies were either too expensive or not feasible for producing water which could be stored. The team set out to develop a less expensive and simpler way of using the miracle tree's seeds to purify and clean drinking water that would also be more sustainable.

Their new study found that by using an extract of the Moringa seed (containing the positively charged protein) to bind to sediment and kill microbes, in conjunction with negatively charged sand, they were able to produce potable and storable water without expensive or complicated technology.

“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.” - Stephanie B. Velegol, Ph.D., lead author

The miracle tree, Moringa oleifera, is already grown for biofuel, food, and medicine in some equatorial regions, so this purification method could also make that natural resource that much more useful.

Forest & Kim Starr/CC BY 3.0

Sustainable and inexpensive drinking water using just seeds and sand? Sounds like a winner. With over 1 billion people lacking regular access to clean drinking water, this new method could be a life-saver for many of our fellow world citizens. Here's hoping it goes beyond the study stage and gets scaled up for implementation in the real world.

For more info, listen to this podcast about the water purification study.

Tags: Drinking Water | Technology | Water Crisis

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