Final Report: Using Sand and Moringa Oleifera Protein for a Sustainable Water Filter

EPA Grant Number: SU835509
Title: Using Sand and Moringa Oleifera Protein for a Sustainable Water Filter
Investigators: Berberich, Jason , Falatach, Rebecca , Gordon, Edward , McCall, Gretchen , Rees, Thomas
Institution: Miami University
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2013 through August 14, 2014
Project Amount: $14,732
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2013) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Materials & Chemicals , P3 Challenge Area - Water , P3 Awards , Sustainability



We propose to design and implement a novel, continuous-flow water purification device that couples the filtration capabilities of sand with the antimicrobial and flocculating properties of the cationic protein found in the Moringa oleifera seed. Developing communities that have access to this tree currently harvest the seeds, crush them, and add them to buckets of dirty water. This batch process will disinfect the water by pulling all the sediment and bacteria to the bottom so that people can drink the clean water from the top. This method is not effective for storage of the water due to the ability of bacteria to re-grow by feeding on the other proteins contained in the seed. By irreversibly binding the disinfecting protein contained within the Moringa seed and washing the Moringa–functionalized sand with water, we are able to eliminate excess dissolved organic matter while retaining the water purifying protein on the sand grains, thus enabling the storage of filtered water. Because the Moringa tree grows abundantly in semi-arid and equatorial regions (which coincides with the location of many developing countries), this idea is a feasible, culturally acceptable, and environmentally and economically sustainable solution to address the global water crisis. This design will have a significant impact on people throughout developing equatorial regions by reducing their exposure to water borne pathogens. Reducing water-borne illnesses will improve people’s health to allow them to build prosperity within their communities. The implementation of Moringa-functionalized sand filters will promote a sustainable planet since the Moringa seed materials degrade naturally.


Our project goal is to treat 20 L/day of water using only ordinary sand, the seeds from a Moringa Oleifera tree, and a plastic or concrete container (depending on which materials are readily available in the community). The water clarifying Moringa-functionalized sand is easily prepared by (1) soaking the sand in a solution of crushed Moringa Oleifera seeds, (2) washing the sand to eliminate excess biological matter, and (3) packing the container with the Moringa functionalized sand. Our goal is to have the effluent pathogen concentration to be less than 100 CFU/mL and the turbidity to be below 5 NTUs.

Summary/Accomplishments (Outputs/Outcomes):

During our Phase I research, we were able to successfully build a continuous flow point-of-use water filter using only sustainable and financially feasible materials. We have been able to show that the Moringa-functionalized sand filter was able to remove more turbidity than the sand filters without the Moringa Oleifera Cationic protein and was able to reduce a solution with a turbidity of 50 NTUs well below 5 NTUs after operation for a week. We have also been able to show that we can create Moringa-functionalized sand using dirty water as well as many different types of sand, including sand found in Chagurapamba, Ecuador. We were also able to prepare functionalized sand using Moringa seeds from multiple sources. Also while in Chaguarpamba, we were able to build a prototype of our filter using only locally sourced materials for well under the $20 goal.


Based on our Phase I work, we have proof of concept for the design of our filter. We have demonstrated that we can prepare Moringa functionalized sand using various types of sand, seeds from multiple sources, and using dirty water. We have worked with a community in Ecuador and have demonstrated that we can prepare a filter for under $20. Although we have demonstrated the ability to remove turbidity from water after operating the filter for more than a week, additional long term testing is desired.

Supplemental Keywords:

Moringa Oleifera, coagulation, flocculating, antimicrobial protein, drinking water, sand, low cost, water purification, pathogen removal, potable water, sustainable technology, developing country