Millions of Lives May Be Saved by Tree Branch Water Filter Say Scientists


The lack of easy access to clean drinking water is a major problem for many residents of underprivileged countries, and can result in all kinds of terrible diseases, including life-threatening illnesses from water-born pathogens. This leads to the deaths of 3.4 million people every year while up to 345 million people are not able to access clean water. Now, scientists say they have found a way to make a disposable and very inexpensive water filter from nature itself–the branch of a tree. This discovery could help to save millions of lives each year. Researchers from MIT used sapwood to create the filter. Their invention could help millions be saved from the dangerous water born pathogens that claim so many lives. Nature has provided a perfect solution to this crisis by providing what’s called plant xylem. A new study detailing these findings was published in the journal Plos One.

Xylem is a tissue in plants made up of vessels and pores. The vessel pathways permit sap to go up from the tree’s roots to the shoots, while the pores trap air pockets so they don’t spread into the wood and destroy the tree. Scientists say it’s a perfect solution because they need a water filtration system that is similar to man-made filters, and the measure of these xylem pores, which measure from a couple of nanometers to 500 nanometers, are the ideal size for shutting out pathogens and channeling out organisms while at the same time administer a high stream rate.  Researchers pointed out that it’s a fortunate coincidence that the xylem within the branches is the exact size needed to create a perfect filtration system from the branch of a tree, a discovery that could help save millions of lives.

To make the filters, researchers outlined a straightforward channel by peeling the bark off a little segment of white pine, then embedding and securing it inside plastic tubing. Prior to this, they peeled back the bark from the limb, cutting it up into inch-long pieces, and pushing it into a plastic tube. They utilized a basic tube latch to give a tight seal, and they had the perfect system for keeping dangerous bacteria, fungi and viruses out of the water while also ensuring a fast and strong rate of water flow.

In the lab, the MIT group found that the tree filter sifted out 99% of E. coli microscopic organisms from water. In a meeting with the magazine Popular Mechanics, National Sanitation Foundation International spokesman, Rick Andrews, advised that the study outcome is potentially very significant but the one drawback and concern researchers face is that if water is too dirty, it could possibly stop up the pores of the tree limb. Despite this potential drawback, the finding are a very good start. Since xylem channels are low-tech and produced out of wood, a common and easily accessed material, they could be prepared on a smaller scale at a much lower cost than commercially prepared water-cleaning innovations, for example, solutions that use huge amounts of fuel, chlorine solutions and UV lights.

Scientists say the xylem channels might be able do more than help save millions of lives in places where clean water is hard to come by. Analysts imagine that sapwood could additionally be utilized as an alternative filter on an outdoors trek. All a hiker would have to do would be to sever a limb from the closest pine tree, peel away the bark, and gradually spill lake water through the branch, and they could potentially have unlimited clean drinking water.

Scientists have made a water filtration system from the branch of a tree, a discovery that could potentially help save millions. Further research must be carried out to eliminate any potential problems and to finalize the efficacy of the system.

By: Rebecca Savastio


MIT News

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