Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Miracle Tree That's Making Dirty Water Drinkable [Science]


The Miracle Tree That's Making Dirty Water DrinkableWe take clean drinking water for granted, but in the developing world it's a big and expensive problem. Now, scientists are turning to a plant known as the Miracle Tree to create a new way of purifying water.

The Miracle Tree—or Moringa oleifera, if you're into Latin—has always had somewhat of a reputation, being grown in equatorial regions for food, traditional medicine and even biofuel. Some research in the past has shown that its seeds can be used to clean water, too—but one method was too expensive to use on a large scale, and another only left the water drinkable for a short period of time.

In a podcast on the American Chemical Society's website, however, researcher Stephanie B. Velegol explains how she's overcome those problems. First, she extracts the active, positively charged Moringa protein from the seeds; a protein that kills microbes. Then she combines it with negatively charged sand to created functionalized sand.

The result is a material that can be stirred through water as a purifier, even destroying bugs as dangerous as E.Coli. Next stop, the developing world. [American Chemical Society; Image: tonrulkens]