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Moringa oleifera (Kalamungay, drumstick tree) pods and seeds on the ground in Kahului, Maui, Hawaii. Forest and Kim Starr / Flickr
Water & Sanitation

This Old Tropical Seed Could Bring Clean Water to Millions

By Joanna Prisco

Seeds of change are on the horizon for water sanitation in developing countries — specifically, seeds from the Moringa oleifera plant.

Commonly referred to as the “drumstick tree,” the Moringa is native to India and cultivated for food and natural oils, according to the Economic Times. But scientists say an age-old practice of using the plant’s seeds to temporarily clean water can easily be adapted into a modern and effective filtration process.

Take Action: Urge Governments And Businesses To Invest In Clean Water And Toilets

A study by a team of Carnegie Mellon researchers recently succeeded in combining sand and Moringa plant materials “readily available in many developing nations to create a cheap and effective water filtration medium, termed ‘f-sand,’" according to a press release.

By extracting the seed proteins and adhering them to the surface of silica particles in sand, Stephanie Velegol, a professor of chemical engineering at Penn State University and former student at Carnegie Mellon, first created f-sand.

The compound kills microorganisms, reduces turbidity, and can be reused multiple times.

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After thorough testing by her former professor, Bob Tilton, at Carnegie Mellon, Velegol’s simple process was deemed super effective

"It's an area where complexity could lead to failure — the more complex it is, the more ways something could go wrong," Tilton said. "I think the bottom line is that this supports the idea that the simpler technology might be the better one."

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