Scientists decontaminate heavy metal water using protein from plant waste

Scientists decontaminate heavy metal water using protein from plant waste

Scientists from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore), in collaboration with ETH Zurich, Switzerland (ETHZ), have created a membrane made from a waste by-product of vegetable oil manufacturing, which can filter out heavy metals from contaminated water.

The research team, led by Professor Ali Miserez from the School of Materials Science & Engineering and the School of Biological Sciences and NTU Visiting Professor Raffaele Mezzenga from the Department of Health Science and Technology at ETHZ, discovered that proteins derived from the by-products of peanut or sunflower oil production can attract heavy metal ions very effectively.

In tests, they showed that this process of attraction, called adsorption, was able to purify contaminated water to a degree that meets international drinking standards.

The researchers' membrane has the potential to be a cheap, low-power, sustainable, and scalable method to decontaminate heavy metals from water.

Prof Miserez said: "Water pollution remains a major global issue in many parts of the world. Heavy metals represent a large group of water pollutants that can accumulate in the human body, causing cancer and mutagenic diseases. Current technologies to remove them are energy-intensive, requiring power to operate, or are highly selective in what they filter."

"Our protein-based membranes are created through a green and sustainable process, and require little to no power to run, making them viable for use throughout the world and especially in less developed countries. Our work puts heavy metal where it belongs -- as a music genre and not a pollutant in drinking water," said Prof Miserez.

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