2.1 billion people in the world, majority living in developing nations, lack clean drinking water, according to United Nations. However, the recent research study carried out by Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) engineers refined the traditional method of water purification using seeds of Indian staple vegetable Drumsticks.
Traditionally, in many developing nations Moringa Oliefera /Drumstick seeds have been used for purifying the dirty river water for domestic use as it lowers the bacterial concentration and makes water suitable to drink. However, this traditional means of filtering keeps bacteria free only for 24 hours. The high amount of dissolved organic carbon from the seeds, allows bacteria to regrow within 24 hours.
According to the CMU website, Velegol, who is now a professor of chemical engineering at Penn State University, had the idea to combine this method of water purification with sand filtration methods common in developing areas. By extracting the seed proteins and adsorbing (adhering) them to the surface of silica particles, the principal component of sand, she created f-sand. F-sand both kills microorganisms and reduces turbidity, adhering to particulate and organic matter. These undesirable contaminants and DOC can then be washed out, leaving the water clean for longer, and the f-sand ready for reuse.
Biomedical Engineering and Chemical Engineering Professors Bob Tilton and Todd Przybycien recently co-authored a paper with Ph.D. students Brittany Nordmark and Toni Bechtel, and alumnus John Riley, further refining a process that could soon help provide clean water to many in water-scarce regions.
This research will benefit those in developing countries looking for cheap and easily accessible form of water purification. They’ve shown that the f-sand manufacturing process displays a high degree of flexibility, as it is able to work at a range of water conditions and protein concentrations without requiring the presence of fatty acids or a need for fractionation.
“It’s an area where complexity could lead to failure—the more complex it is, the more ways something could go wrong,” says Tilton. “I think the bottom line is that this supports the idea that the simpler technology might be the better one.”