University of South Florida engineering professor Norma Alcantar and her team are using the “flesh” from Prickly Pear cacti, called mucilage, to clean up oil and other toxins from water. With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Alcantar has spent the last few years confirming something that her grandmother told her years ago–that cacti can purify water.
“This research is a good example of NSF’s investment in sustainable chemistry which promotes the replacement of expensive and/or toxic chemicals with Earth-abundant, inexpensive and benign chemicals,” says Debra Reinhart, program director in the Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems Division of the NSF’s Engineering Directorate.
The objectives of this research are to develop a water purification system based on an economically feasible method of water purification using cactus mucilage for low-income inhabitants of rural communities that are sensitive to existing economic, social and cultural patterns. The project transcends national boundaries as it includes collaborations among investigators at the University of South Florida, two leading Mexican public universities, and the National Institute of the Environment in Mexico.
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