Low tech methods have sometimes prevailed over the latest technologies, simply because they had been forgotten for decades or had been buried somewhere in a lost civilization. But some of them seem to be effective nowadays.
It is the case of the prickly pear cactus (Opuntia ficus-indica), which the 19th century Mexican communities used as a water purifier. Now, the scientists from the Univeristy of South Florida in Tampa, rediscovered the miraculous effects this cactus has on dirty water using scientific methods and microscope analysis.
Norma Alcantar and her colleagues extracted the cactus’s mucilage – the thick gum that the plant uses to store water, and mixed it with water to which they had added dirt (sediments and bacteria – Bacillus cereus).
To their surprise, the mucilage acted as a flocullant, joining the sediment particles and the bacteria which then dropped to the bottom of the water smples. 98 percent of the bacteria had been removed from the water, which is just amazing.
Householders in the developing world could boil a slice of cactus to release the mucilage and add it to water in need of purification, says Alcantar. “The cactus’s prevalence, affordability and cultural acceptance make it an attractive natural material for water purification technologies.”
Maybe this isn’t a panacea-solution for water purification issues around the globe, although the cactus grows in many places, but knowing about it could save many people’s lives and could eventually provide industrial harvesting for cheap purification of water in developing countries. Furthermore, they can save a lot of energy with other electricity-consuming water purifiers.