Desert cactus purifies contaminated water for aquaculture, drinking and more
Farm-grown fish are an important source of food with significant and worldwide societal and economic benefits, but the fish that come from these recirculating systems can have unpleasant tastes and odors. To clean contaminated water for farmed fish, drinking and other uses, scientists are now turning to an unlikely source -- the mucilage or inner "guts" of cacti.
The researchers present their work today at the 251st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). ACS, the world's largest scientific society, is holding the meeting here through Thursday. It features more than 12,500 presentations on a wide range of science topics. A brand-new video on the research is available at http://bit.ly/ACSCactus.
"We found there is an attraction between the mucilage of cactus and arsenic," says Norma Alcantar, Ph.D. "The mucilage also attracts sediments, bacteria and other contaminants. It captures these substances and forms a large mass or 'floc' that sort of looks like cotton candy. For sediments, the flocs are large and heavy, which precipitate rapidly after the interaction with mucilage."
The technology grew from century-old knowledge that mucilage from some common cacti can clean drinking water. Alcantar was first introduced to this process by her Mexican grandmother who described using boiled prickly pear cactus to capture particles in sediment-laced dirty water. The sediments sank, and the water at the top of the bucket became clear and drinkable.
Continue reading at EurekAlert!
Prickly pear cactus image via Shutterstock.