A new nano-filter powered by sunlight can clean large bodies of water from antibiotics and carcinogens. The device, developed by the University of Cincinnati, is much more effective than the activated carbon that’s currently being used for this purpose.
Two bacterial proteins absorb about 64 percent of the antibiotics in surface water. For a comparison, activated carbon only keeps 40 percent of them.
Why is this important? Because antibiotics and the various chemicals found in surface waters can disturb the endocrine system of fish and make harmful bacteria resistant to them.
The researchers used “technology” found in drug-resistant bacteria – a protein pump called AcrB. “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,” said David Wendell, an assistant professor of environmental engineering at the University of Cincinnati.
“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.”
All these nano-devices need to work is sunlight.