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Biotech Technology

Water Filtration With a Tree Branch 205

Taco Cowboy writes "Dirty water is a major cause of mortality in the developing world. 'The most common water-borne pathogens are bacteria (e.g. Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhi, Vibrio cholerae), viruses (e.g. adenoviruses, enteroviruses, hepatitis, rotavirus), and protozoa (e.g. giardia). These pathogens cause child mortality and also contribute to malnutrition and stunted growth of children.' People have been working on engineering cheaper and cheaper filtration systems for years, but now a group of researchers has found a promising and simple solution: a tree branch. 'Approximately 3 cm^3 of sapwood can filter water at the rate of several liters per day, sufficient to meet the clean drinking water needs of one person.' 'Before experimenting with contaminated water, the group used water mixed with red ink particles ranging from 70 to 500 nanometers in size. After all the liquid passed through, the researchers sliced the sapwood in half lengthwise, and observed that much of the red dye was contained within the very top layers of the wood, while the filtrate, or filtered water, was clear. This experiment showed that sapwood is naturally able to filter out particles bigger than about 70 nanometers.' The team tested E. coli-contaminated water, and the branch was able to filter out 99 percent of the bacterial cells."
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Water Filtration With a Tree Branch

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  • by hort_wort ( 1401963 ) on Friday February 28, 2014 @01:35PM (#46368697)

    "It's so beautiful. It's hard to believe these spores could kill me."

  • by Jason Pollock ( 45537 ) on Friday February 28, 2014 @01:40PM (#46368741) Homepage

    Trees are great at dealing with bacteria.

    We soon found that disease bacteria such as these were not recoverable from wooden surfaces in a short time after they were applied, unless very large numbers were used. New plastic surfaces allowed the bacteria to persist, but were easily cleaned and disinfected. However, wooden boards that had been used and had many knife cuts acted almost the same as new wood, whereas plastic surfaces that were knife-scarred were impossible to clean and disinfect manually, especially when food residues such as chicken fat were present.

    http://faculty.vetmed.ucdavis.... []

  • Re:First time? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Em Adespoton ( 792954 ) <> on Friday February 28, 2014 @01:49PM (#46368813) Homepage Journal

    If this is true, then this is a really profound discovery that could help millions of people.

    What I'm wondering, is why no other society, that we know of, has discovered this low-tech, yet seemingly incredibly useful thing previously?

    Well, I learned this technique as part of my Aboriginal American studies when I was growing up -- I think it's more likely that our western culture has "lost" this knowledge than that nobody has discovered it before.

  • by ansak ( 80421 ) on Friday February 28, 2014 @01:54PM (#46368855) Homepage Journal
    The article quoted above points to a paper [] that has some diagrams that shows how water would go through a branch -- no hoax here.

    In brief, find a stalk of sappy wood -- my Dad showed us every spring how to make a whistle out of alder branches that look what the picture shows -- peel it, whittle it to size and then plug it into the end of a tube and gravity feed water through it.

  • Lack of information (Score:5, Informative)

    by Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Friday February 28, 2014 @02:53PM (#46369415)

    You can make a pretty decent biofilter simply by folding a piece of cotton cloth such as an old Indian sari a few times - it'll remove 99% of cholera and many other particularly nasty infectious agents. Yet people are still getting infected because they don't know about the simple solution - it's not a technology problem, it's a public information problem. And spreading public service announcements among a population where where most people don't even own a radio is a serious challenge. Doable, but expensive and there's no profit in it, so it usually falls to small humanitarian organizations that do their best to make the information go viral, and usually fail. Getting a meme to go viral is a lot more difficult when it can only spread through face-to-face interactions.

"The number of Unix installations has grown to 10, with more expected." -- The Unix Programmer's Manual, 2nd Edition, June, 1972