Love drumstick? Here’s why you may love this vegetarian delicacy more. Researchers in the US have found that proteins from drumstick plant can help provide clean water to millions of people across the world. At a time when, according to the United Nations, around 2.1 billion people of the world, including millions in India, lack access to clean and safe drinking water services, the research by Carnegie Melon University (CMU) scholars assumes significance.
Moringa oleifera plant, or drumstick, is native to India and grows well in tropical and subtropical climates. In India, it is cultivated for food and oil. Even its leaves are used in some recipes.
The research has been co-authored by CMU’s Biomedical Engineering and Chemical Engineering Professors Bob Tilton and Todd Przybycien. They were assisted by Ph.D students Brittany Nordmark and Toni Bechtel, and alumnus John Riley, accourding to engineering.cmu.edu
The researchers have further refined a process that will likely provide clean drinking water to millions of people living in water-scarce regions of the world.
According the CMU website, the process was created by Tilton’s former student and co-author Stephanie Velegol. Drumstick seeds are already used for a type of rudimentary water purification. But this process leaves behind high amount of dissolved organic carbon from the seeds, letting bacteria to regrow in the water after just 24 hours. Hence, only a short window of time is left before the water purified through the rudimentary process become undrinkable.
Velegol had come up with the idea of combining the rudimentary water purification with drumstick and the sand filtration method. Velegol used sand and plant materials to create a cheap and effective water filteration medium named as ‘f-sand.’ She created the f-sand by extracting proteins from drumstick plant and adhering them to the surface of silica particles, which is the main component of sand. The f-sand can kill “microorganisms and reduce turbidity, adhering to particulate and organic matter.” Further, undesirable contaminants and DOC can be washed out – making the water remain clean for long and F-sand ready for reuse.
The process developed by Velegol was “proven” and “effective” but there were still many questions about the creation of f-sand and its usage. The new research led by Tilton and Przybycien have sought to answer those questions.
According to CMU.edu, drumstick seeds contain at least eight different proteins. Researchers have answered whether separating these proteins, through a process called fractionation, would be more useful? They have found this is unnecessary. This finding is specially significant for resource-scarce locations that want to use f-sand but can’t afford fractionation.
The researchers also examined whether fatty acid found in drumstick seeds could affect the absorption of protein on silica particles. The researchers found that removing fatty acids is also not necessary, just like fractionation.
Further, researchers tested the concentration of seed proteins necessary for creation of an “effective” product. They found that in areas where exact measurements may not be easy, there would be little risk of accidentally causing water contamination by overshooting the concentration.
The researchers have also found that drumstick seeds protein absorb well to silica particles and coagulate suspended contaminants in both soft and hard water conditions, says CMU.edu. This means the water purification through f-sand can be done in several types of regions.
The process can immensely help people in developing countries who are looking for affordable form of water purification.