As part of the “Sullied Sediments” program, which is assessing pollutant levels in European waterways to manage and reduce contamination, scientists are working to discover new and cost-effective ways to clean up waterways. In a press release from the American Chemical Society Andrew Boa, Ph.D., stated: “We’re trying to find alternative ways to remove these chemicals from water so we can reduce the amount going into the environment.”
Boa and his research partner, University of Hull doctoral student Aimilia Meichanetzoglou, have developed a method to remove contaminants from water using pollens and spores—which are cost-effective, abundant, and easily renewable. Spore grains extracted from the common club moss, Lycopodium clavatum, can be transformed into miniature sponges used to remove pollutants from water. Their research builds on a method previously established by Grahame Mackenzie, Ph.D., which created hollowed-out pollen and spore shells.
Their new method uses hydrolysis to remove the genetic information and waxy coating from the spores, rendering them hypoallergenic. The hydrolysis conditions can be modified to adjust the grain surface to target certain pollutants. One example of this modification technique is that grains with iron oxide on their shells can remove phosphate from water by forming the insoluble compound iron phosphate. Phosphate is a common water contaminant due to fertilizers and agriculture runoff. Using this technique, the grains removed nearly all of the phosphate from water samples and about 80% of other pollutants.
The research results were presented yesterday at the American Chemical Society (ACS) Fall 2019 National Meeting and Exposition. You can view the presentation in the video below.