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Better Water Purification with Seeds from Moringa trees. 5 December 2013

Seeds from Moringa oleifera trees can be used to purify water. Uppsala University leads a research group which has discovered that seed material can give a more efficient purification process than conventional synthetic materials in use today. This international collaboration used research facilities including neutron scattering instruments at the Institut Laue-Langevin in France and the NIST Center for Neutron Research in the USA.

Clean water is essential for good health.  In many countries it is still difficult to obtain clean water.  Even developed countries can benefit from a process that treats waste water without addition of further synthetic chemicals.
In a project lead by UppsalaUniversity, scientists from several countries have investigated how an extract from seeds of Moringa trees can be used to purify water.  A protein in the seeds binds to impurities causing them to aggregate so that the clusters can be separated from the water.
A press release about previous work on this topic is available here.

The study recently published in the journal Colloids and Surfaces A takes a step towards optimisation of the water purification process.  Researchers in Uppsala together with colleagues from Lund as well as Namibia, Botswana, France and the USA have studied the microscopic structure of aggregates formed with the protein.  The results show that the clusters of material (flocs) that are produced with the protein are much more tightly packed than those formed with conventional flocculating agents   This is better for water purification as such flocs are more easily separated.
The new study compares protein from the seeds of different varieties of Moringa trees that are grown in different countries.  It also allows estimates of the optimum amount of seed extract that should be used to minimise residues in treated water.
The work used research facilities at the Institut Laue-Langevin in France and the NIST Center for Neutron Research in the USA.  Powerful research tools such as those for neutron scattering are important to tackle challenges facing developing countries as well as industrialised regions.
There is a broad interest in new, sustainable methods for water treatment.  The research group has already presented results to government agencies and public bodies, particularly in Namibia and Botswana.  There are now discussions on best use of Moringa seeds, both to substitute conventional materials in large water treatment plants and in small scale units.
“We can envisage that similar materials could be used in Europe both to produce drinking water and to treat wastewater”, says Professor Adrian Rennie.
"Neutrons are an ideal tool for understanding the internal structure of these complex organic aggregates thanks to a contrast matching technique that only highlights the protein components absorbed to the particles,“ says Dr Lionel Porcar from the Institut Laue-Langevin. ”Additionally the use of Ultra Small Angle Neutron Scattering allowed the mechanism of aggregation of these large flocs to be followed non-invasively.”

The work has been funded by the ’Research Links’ programme of the Swedish Research Council and Sida.



Re.: Colloids and Surfaces, DOI 10.1016/j.colsurfa.2013.11.038


For more information, please contact Adrian Rennie, tel:+46 (0)70-4250914, +46 (0)18-471 3596,  or Maja Hellsing, tel: +46(0)18-471 3590




Note to editors


About ILL – The Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL) is an international research centre based in Grenoble, France. It has led the world in neutron-scattering science and technology for almost 40 years, since experiments began in 1972. ILL operates one of the most intense neutron sources in the world, feeding beams of neutrons to a suite of 40 high-performance instruments that are constantly upgraded. Each year 1,200 researchers from over 40 countries visit ILL to conduct research into condensed matter physics, (green) chemistry, biology, nuclear physics, and materials science. The UK, along with France and Germany is an associate and major funder of the ILL.

Uppsala University is the oldest university in the Nordic countries, with a living cultural environment and fantastic student life. There are 40,000 students here, and they are seen, heard, and noticed everywhere. World-class research and high quality education pursued here benefit society and business on a global level. The University is characterized by diversity and breadth, with international frontline research at nine faculties and limitless educational offerings at undergraduate and master levels. - See more at: www.uu.se/en/about-uu/in-brief/

Uppsala University is the oldest university in the Nordic countries, with a living cultural environment and fantastic student life. There are 40,000 students here, and they are seen, heard, and noticed everywhere. World-class research and high quality education pursued here benefit society and business on a global level. The University is characterized by diversity and breadth, with international frontline research at nine faculties and limitless educational offerings at undergraduate and master levels. - See more at: www.uu.se/en/about-uu/in-brief/



About Uppsala University - Uppsala University is the oldest university in the Nordic countries, with a living cultural environment and fantastic student life. There are 40,000 students here, and they are seen, heard, and noticed everywhere. World-class research and high quality education pursued here benefit society and business on a global level. The University is characterized by diversity and breadth, with international frontline research at nine faculties and limitless educational offerings at undergraduate and master levels. www.uu.se/en