3D-Printed ‘Living Material’ Could Clean Contaminated Water
A new, eco-friendly method for cleaning water pollutants has been developed by researchers at the University of California San Diego by utilizing 3D printing technology. The groundbreaking engineered material combines a seaweed polymer with bacteria that have been genetically engineered to produce an enzyme that targets various pollutants in the water, as well as to safely destroy themselves when introduced to theophylline after usage to avoid contamination. Theophylline is a molecule commonly found in chocolate and tea.
“The living material can act on the pollutant of interest, then a small molecule can be added afterwards to kill the bacteria. This way, we can alleviate any concerns about having genetically modified bacteria lingering in the environment,” said Jon Pokorski, a professor of nanoengineering at the university. Pokorski co-leads this research alongside a multidisciplinary team of engineers, scientists, and biologists.
A New Water-Treatment Approach to Reduce Chemical Dependence
Treating water has historically relied upon the inclusion of chemicals and compounds, but a new paper, written by Elliot Reid, a student at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and advocated by professor Yongsheng Chen, offers a philosophy in the form of “the minus approach.” Reid theorizes that avoiding chemical treatments like disinfection and flocculation can be effective by focusing on techniques such as biofiltration and exposure to UV light. The paper suggests that these changes can be implemented immediately, as their efficacy has already been proven and the technology is readily available.
“By reducing the reliance on chemical treatments,” Chen says, “the minus approach mitigates the potential risks associated with the use of such chemicals, promoting a safer water supply for both human consumption and environmental protection.”
Using Fungal Pellets to Capture Microplastics
Amid the growing concerns for the prevalence of microplastics (microscopic plastic particles) and their presence across food and water supplies, a new approach is being developed by Texas A&M University for dealing with this production scourge. Many filters are unable to capture the particles that are less than a micrometer in length. However, this study’s findings indicate that fungal pellets, utilized for their ability to consume microplastics, can be used to capture microplastics that range in size from 200 nanometers to five micrometers.
This research is led by Dr. Huaimin Wang, a scientist at the university, alongside associate professor Dr. Susie Dai and other researchers in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology.