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Oilseed Meal Being Used to Filter Heavy Metals From Contaminated Water

When the oil is extracted from oilseeds such as sunflower seeds or peanuts, the byproduct left behind from that process is oilseed meal. New research has shown that proteins taken from this oilseed meal can be used to filter heavy metals from contaminated water.

Scientists from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore and the ETH Zurich research institute in Switzerland extracted proteins from peanut and sunflower oilseed meal, then wound the protein chains together to create nanoscale rope-like structures called protein amyloid fibrils. These fibrils were then combined with activated carbon forming hybrid filtration membranes.

In tests, when these membranes were used to filter water contaminated with lead, platinum, and chromium, they acted as “molecular sieves” and removed 99.89 percent of those heavy metals, with the resulting water meeting international drinking standards.

The scientific teams stated that they estimate it would take only 35 pounds of sunflower protein to filter the equivalent of an Olympic-sized swimming pool volume of water contaminated with 400 parts per billion of lead. Furthermore, once the membranes become saturated, they can then be dried out and burned, with the trapped metals being left behind, allowing for more valuable metals, such as platinum to be recycled.


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