Cactus "Flesh" Cleans Up Toxic Water
News Aug 13, 2013
University of South Florida engineering professor Norma Alcantar and her team are using the "flesh" from Prickly Pear cacti, called mucilage, to clean up oil and other toxins from water. With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Alcantar has spent the last few years confirming something that her grandmother told her years ago--that cacti can purify water.
"This research is a good example of NSF's investment in sustainable chemistry which promotes the replacement of expensive and/or toxic chemicals with Earth-abundant, inexpensive and benign chemicals," says Debra Reinhart, program director in the Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems Division of the NSF's Engineering Directorate.
The objectives of this research are to develop a water purification system based on an economically feasible method of water purification using cactus mucilage for low-income inhabitants of rural communities that are sensitive to existing economic, social and cultural patterns. The project transcends national boundaries as it includes collaborations among investigators at the University of South Florida, two leading Mexican public universities, and the National Institute of the Environment in Mexico.
The cactus project has been assessed for the rural communities of Temamatla in central Mexico, for Port-au-Prince, Haiti, after the 2010 earthquake, and for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2011. Temamatla is located 25 miles (40 kilometers) southeast of Mexico City and was critical for this study owing to its proximity to volcanic soils where the concentration of heavy metals such as cobalt, mercury, nickel, copper, zinc, iron, manganese, chromium, iodine, arsenic, molybdenum and lead in local water supplies may be higher than recommended values. In Haiti, the outcomes of the project were to determine the composition of the ground water beds after the earthquake and evaluate the feasibility of implementing a low cost technology for disaster relief based on cactus mucilage. The cactus mucilage is also able to disperse crude oil efficiently at much lower concentrations than synthetic dispersants.
The broader implications of this project include the multidisciplinary participation of American and Mexican researchers in issues that are relevant to both countries owing to their proximity and preexisting ties. Such collaboration will promote mutual opportunities and infrastructure for research, education, training, networking and future partnerships. Most importantly, the proposed technology will improve current water-related issues and problems in areas of extreme need.
Poisonings went Hand in Hand with the Drinking Water in PompeiiNews
Analyses of a water pipe from Pompeii suggest that drinking water in the pipelines was probably poisoned on a scale that may have led to daily problems with vomiting, diarrhoea, and liver and kidney damage.READ MORE
GC Reveals the Risks Posed by Common Water Pipe Repair MethodNews
New research is calling for immediate safeguards and the study of a widely used method for repairing sewer-, storm-water and drinking-water pipes to understand the potential health and environmental concerns for workers and the public.READ MORE