Global Technology – February 2012

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Now let’s focus on this month’s most important advances in technology.  We’ll begin with a breakthrough that promises to quench the developing world’s thirst for clean drinking water. Today, more than 1 billion people lack access to clean drinking water.  However, a natural substance obtained from the seeds of the Moringa oleifera, or “miracle tree” plant already grown in equatorial regions for food, traditional medicine, and biofuel, could purify and clarify water inexpensively and sustainably. Research on a sustainable water-treatment process that requires only the miracle tree seeds and sand was recently published in the American Chemical Society journal, Langmuir. Prior research showed that a protein in Moringa seeds could be used to clean water, but using that approach was too expensive and complicated for poor rural areas.  So the researchers sought to develop a simpler and less expensive way to utilize the seeds’ power. To do that, they added an extract of the seed containing the positively charged Moringa protein, which binds to sediment and kills microbes, to negatively charged sand.  The resulting “functionalized sand,” proved effective in killing harmful E. coli bacteria and removing sediment from water samples.  The researchers conclude, “The results open the possibility that functionalized sand can provide a simple, locally sustainable process for producing potable drinking water.”

References

Langmuir, November 30, 2011, “Antimicrobial Sand via Adsorption of Cationic Moringa Oleifera Protein,” by Huda A. Jerri, et al.  © 2011 American Chemical Society.  All rights reserved. To purchase this article, please visit: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/la2038262
In the 1966 film Fantastic Voyage, medical personnel board a submarine that shrinks to microscopic size and enters the bloodstream of a wounded diplomat to save his life.  The going is rough, with waves of blood that rock the sub with every heartbeat, and antibodies that attack it as an infection.  Nevertheless, they succeed in the end. Today’s physicians would love to produce micro-robots capable of navigating through the body like...

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