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Cactus gum could make clean water cheap for millions

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posted on Apr, 27 2010 @ 11:09 PM

Quote from source:
FORGET expensive machinery, the best way to purify water could be hiding in a cactus. It turns out that an extract from the prickly pear cactus is effective at removing sediment and bacteria from dirty water.

Many water purification methods introduced into the developing world are quickly abandoned as people don't know how to use and maintain them, says Norma Alcantar at the University of South Florida in Tampa. So she and her colleagues decided to investigate the prickly pear cactus, Opuntia ficus-indica, which 19th-century Mexican communities used as a water purifier. The cactus is found across the globe.

The team extracted the cactus's mucilage - the thick gum the plant uses to store water. They then mixed this with water to which they had added high levels of either sediment or the bacterium Bacillus cereus.

Alcantar found that the mucilage acted as a flocculant, causing the sediment particles to join together and settle to the bottom of the water samples. The gum also caused the bacteria to combine and settle, allowing 98 per cent of bacteria to be filtered from the water (Environmental Science and Technology, DOI: 10.1021/es9030744). They now intend to test it on natural water.

Amazing. Who would have thought to look at the plants that store water?

Joking aside, this is an amazing discovery and could possibly help Billions of people. To grow a cactus is cheap and easy and could be done by nearly anyone. Exciting news and happy to see all those people with billions and billions of dollars do not have to be depended on, and good old mother nature will take care of us.

Makes me love our mother all the more.

Any thoughts?


posted on Apr, 27 2010 @ 11:25 PM
Good find and good news.

I remember we had prickly pears when I was young. They have these tiny sharp hairs that are annoying as hell. But they're not too bad to eat either.

Lets just hope the process doesn't become copyrighted and owned by some massive corporation.

posted on Apr, 28 2010 @ 12:15 AM
I hope it develops into a practical method of ensuring cheaper clean water. I guess an important point is raised by the guy at the foot of the article...

But Colin Horwitz of GreenOx Catalysts in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, says many issues remain, including how much land and water is needed to grow cacti for widespread water purification, and how households will know all the bacteria have been removed.

posted on Apr, 28 2010 @ 01:13 AM
reply to post by Kandinsky

That's why I said possibly. Let's hope all pans out though because this would literally be a lifesaver. Important findings to come.


posted on Apr, 28 2010 @ 01:19 AM
reply to post by predator0187

But wait there's more! it slices -- it dices -- Cactus FUEL CELL!!

Furthermore, the researchers showed that a biofuel cell inserted in a cactus leaf could generate power of 9 μW per cm2. Because this yield was proportional to light intensity, stronger illumination accelerated the production of glucose and O2 (photosynthesis), so more fuel was available to operate the cell. In the future, this system could ultimately form the basis for a new strategy for the environmentally-friendly and renewable transformation of solar energy into electrical energy.

posted on Apr, 28 2010 @ 08:07 AM
Great find! This should probably be under the survival forums. Prickly pear grows everywhere in the US except for the extreme northern states. At 98% bateria removal rate it's nearly as good as many commercial water filters. Though I wouldn't stake my life on it without more research it just could save your butt in a pinch. The fruits and flowers are also edible! Thanks.

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