More than one billion people worldwide lack access to clean drinking water. Contaminated water results in untold suffering and death from dysentery, typhoid, and other common diseases. Children especially are easy victims of unsafe water. That’s why scientists are so excited about the prospects of a new solution inspired by a tree appropriately called the miracle tree.
This tree, known to botanists by the Latin name Moringa oleifera, is also called the horseradish tree because its roots taste like horseradish; and it is sometimes called the drumstick tree because of the shape of its seed pods. Long known in Africa and India, the tree is now propagated in tropical regions worldwide. Its leaves and bark are used for medicine, and the seed pods are highly nutritious.
But that is not what has caused the recent enthusiasm.
A protein in the seed pods effectively binds pollutants to itself while also killing harmful bacteria, including E. coli. This protein is useful for water treatment, but traditional methods were too complicated and labor-intensive to be of widespread benefit. Moreover, the water quickly grew new bacteria.
These problems were solved by adding the protein to sand, so Moringa seeds now show promise for improved water treatment worldwide. Here’s how it works. The antibiotic protein is first extracted from the Moringa seeds.1 Then the protein is coated onto sand grains. The resulting product is called f-sand, short for antimicrobial functionalized sand.2 Water filtered through the sand becomes clear of sediment and free of harmful microbes. The sand can also be stirred directly into water as an instant purifier, and treated water can be stored indefinitely without deteriorating. Research continues to find commercial applications that will work well in remote areas.
As an added blessing, the miracle tree grows rapidly, as tall as 9.8 feet (3 m) in a single year. The seeds provide a local, sustainable, biodegradable tool for improving water quality.
We are surrounded by useful ideas and products, placed in nature by the Creator. Surely many wonders remain undiscovered. This suggests an entirely new approach to science: searching for the secret chemicals and “technology” that our Creator has provided for the blessing of mankind.