Cactus gum may purify water cheaply, effectively

April 28th, 2010 - 3:17 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Apr 28 (ANI): The best way to purify water could be hiding in a cactus, according to scientists.

According to Norma Alcantar at the University of South Florida in Tampa and colleagues, an extract from the prickly pear cactus is effective at removing sediment and bacteria from dirty water, reports New Scientist.

In the study, Alcantar and her colleagues investigated the prickly pear cactus, Opuntia ficus-indica.

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.

The study has been published in Environmental Science and Technology.

The boffins now intend to test it on natural water.

Alcantar said: “The cactus’s prevalence, affordability and cultural acceptance make it an attractive natural material for water purification technologies.” (ANI)

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