They purify contaminated water with 3D printed “living material”

We have known for decades that in the increasingly near future, drinking water will be a very scarce commodity. One of the biggest problems with freshwater courses is pollution caused by man. Now, scientists discover that using a 3D printed “living material” they make contaminated water drinkable. This method is capable of eliminating organic contaminants and they believe it will allow us to have inexhaustible drinking water.

They purify contaminated water

Almost 70% of our planet’s surface is covered by water

From a spatial perspective, when looking at the Earth, it is evident that a large part of its area is covered by water. The oceans cover a larger proportion than the continents, although not all of this vast body of water is drinkable or suitable for human consumption.

According to rough calculations, only 3% to 5% of the water on our planet is classified as fresh. However, it is important to highlight that not all freshwater is suitable for human consumption, which significantly reduces this usable percentage.

Even according to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is estimated that in 2022 around 1.7 billion people drank water contaminated with feces. Something that with the advances in analysis in the 21st century would seem impossible.

70% of Planet Earth is water

They purify contaminated water

For these reasons, a team of scientists from the United States met to have a strategy to efficiently purify contaminated fresh water. They are researchers from the University of California in San Diego.

The test consisted of eliminating contaminants from water with an innovative method that has enormous potential, is economical, sustainable and ecological. It is a 3D printed “living material” that removes organic contaminants from water.

They call it “living material” because it consists of a 3D printed structure using an algae-based polymer that is combined with genetically modified bacteria. In turn, an enzyme is generated that transforms organic contaminants in the water into benign molecules.

Additionally, these genetically modified bacteria are designed to self-destruct when they come into contact with theophylline. This substance is present, for example, in tea and chocolate. In this way, once they fulfilled the function of decontaminating the water, they eliminated themselves.

They print “living material” to purify contaminated water

According to the words of Professor Jon Pokorski, who holds the position of professor in the field of nanoengineering at the aforementioned academic institution, the most revolutionary aspect lies in the fusion of a polymeric compound with a biological system. Which allowed the creation of a living material with the ability to react to stimuli inaccessible to conventional synthetic substances. All the details of this research have been thoroughly documented in the pages of the prestigious journal Nature Communications.

To make the “living material” they used alginate, which is a natural polymer extracted from seaweed. They dehydrated it until they got a gel and then mixed it with cyanobacteria that live in water. To “print” this mixture, they used a 3D printer, testing various geometric shapes, until they achieved the most adaptable one, the grid shape.

They obtained more than satisfactory results. In the world there are more than 2.2 billion people who do not have access to safe drinking water. Of them, 400 million are forced to extract the water they consume from unprotected wells or springs. Others collect water directly from rivers, lakes, ponds or streams that do not have any type of treatment.

Will this discovery allow us to have inexhaustible drinking water for all of humanity?

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