Moringa Tree Seeds Build Better Water Purifiers, Could Provide Clean Drinking To Impoverished Nations

Seeds from the Moringa tree could replace conventional synthetic compounds used to purify water, according to research from Uppsala University, Sweden.

By Nsikan Akpan on December 6, 2013 12:03 PM EST

Moringa tree seeds offer a cheap, sustainable option for water purification, according to research from Uppsala University, Sweden. Photo courtesy of <a href=

Moringa tree seeds offer a cheap, sustainable option for water purification, according to research from Uppsala University, Sweden. Photo courtesy of Crops For The Future.

Seeds from the Moringa tree — common to Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central America — could help deliver cheap, clean water to low- and middle-income nations in those regions. The seeds provide an inexpensive alternative to synthetic agents used in water purifiers, according to a study from an international collaboration of scientists, led by Uppsala University in Sweden,

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Pure water is vital to a person's well-being. Limited access to water purification technology is a major barrier to improving sanitation across the world. Nearly 4,000 children die across the world every day due to diseases related to poor water quality. In developing nations, 4 out of 5 illnesses are linked to a dearth of clean drinking water or poor sanitation conditions, and there are growing concerns over water quality in developed countries like the United States.

"We can envisage that similar materials [to Moringa tree seeds] could be used in Europe both to produce drinking water and to treat wastewater," said Uppsala materials physicist Adrian Rennie, who led the study. Moringa seeds, already touted for a range of dietary benefits, may offer a solution. A protein found in their seeds sticks to water impurities-such as organic compounds and bacteria-causing them to collect into microscopic pods .Known as "coagulation, this is the first step for filtering water at most treatment plants and is currently accomplished with chemicals like alum and lime. 

Moringa trees are also known as drumstick trees, due to their slender seed pods (pictured above). Photo courtesy of <a href=
Moringa trees are also known as drumstick trees, due to their slender seed pods (pictured above). Photo courtesy of Crops For The Future.

This study discovered that Moringa's filtering protein forms tighter clusters with water impurities than conventional agents, meaning they should be easier to ultimately separate from water. The researchers are now holding meetings with government agencies, namely in Nambia and Botswana, to assess whether Moringa seeds could substitute for conventional materials in their large water treatment plants and in small scale units. If successful, Moringa seeds may become a sustainable tactic for water purification in the area.

Source: Hellsing MS, Kwaambwa HM, Nermark FM, Nkoane BBM, et al. Structure of flocs of latex particles formed by addition of protein from Moringa seeds. Colloids and Surfaces A: Physicochemical and Engineering Aspects. 2013.

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