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Seeds from Moringa tree can purify water

2010-03-15

Pure water is vital to humans, and in many countries there is a great need for alternative, inexpensive purification methods. In collaboration with the University of Botswana, researchers from Uppsala University have been able to show how extracts from seeds of the Moringa oleifera tree can purify water.

“It’s amazing to see that simple interactions between molecules can solve practical problems. Understanding this process can lead to further developments in water purification using naturally occurring and environmentally friendly materials,” says Adrian Rennie, professor of neutron scattering at Uppsala University.

A common first step in the water purification process is to remove impurities in the form of particles. This is often done with aluminum or iron salts. Aluminum in particular has serious side effects for humans. In Africa, alternative purification processes are used that employ natural extracts from the seeds of the Moringa oleifera tree.

A new study shows how extremely small amounts of protein from the seeds of the tree bind strongly to surfaces, a property that results in the aggregation of pollutant particles, which can then be separated from the water. The Scattering Center and the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Ångström Laboratory have great expertise in neutron reflectivity technology, which makes it possible to see the structure and the composition of materials bound between fluids and solid surfaces on a scale of nanometers (millionths of a millimeter).

The research project on the water purification properties of the Moringa tree grew out of a collaboration with the University of Botswana, where scientists have long been working with naturally occurring materials.

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Materials physics