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Solar-powered filter that can remove antibiotics from water

Last Updated: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 - 23:40

Zee Media Bureau

Cincinnati, US: Researchers at the University of Cincinnati have developed a solar-powered nano filter, which is capable of removing harmful carcinogens and antibiotics from rivers, lakes and drinking water sources.

The new technology is composed of two bacterial proteins that are able to absorb roughly 64 percent of the antibiotics present in the surface waters against about 40 percent by the currently used filtering technique made of activated carbon.

Also, the new filter has the ability to reuse the antibiotics that are captured.

Antibiotics and chemicals present in surface waters kill many microorganisms and also breed resistant bacteria, degrading the health of aquatic ecosystems.

So, as a result, “the newly developed nano filters, each much smaller in diameter than a human hair, could potentially have a big impact on both human health and on the health of the aquatic environment (since the presence of antibiotics in surface waters can also affect the endocrine systems of fish, birds and other wildlife),” states a press release of University of Cincinnati.

Interestingly, the new filter makes use of one of the very elements that enable drug-resistant bacteria to be so harmful, a protein pump called AcrB. David Wendell, an assistant professor of environmental engineering at the University of Cincinnati, stated: “These pumps are an amazing product of evolution. They are essentially selective garbage disposals for the bacteria. Our innovation was turning the disposal system around. So, instead of pumping out, we pump the compounds into the proteovesicles.”

To power the pumping mechanism, the researchers made use of “a light-driven bacterial protein called Delta-rhodopsin, which supplies AcrB with the pumping power to move the antibiotics.”

The technology can work using only sunlight as the power source.

Wendell continued: “So far, our innovation promises to be an environmentally friendly means for extracting antibiotics from the surface waters that we all rely on. It also has potential to provide for cost-effective antibiotic recovery and reuse. Next, we want to test our system for selectively filtering out hormones and heavy metals from surface waters.”

Details of the new research were published in the journal Nano Letters.

First Published: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 - 23:39

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