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Published on December 12th, 2012 | by Tina Casey

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Garlic Filters Out Heavy Metals (and Vampires, Too!)

December 12th, 2012 by  


 
Just in time for the final installment of the Twilight vampire saga, a team of researchers from the University of Delhi is developing a filter made of garlic and onion, to clean up arsenic, cadmium, iron, lead, mercury, and tin. The process could be used to treat industrial effluent at factories, and it could also join the growing bioremediation toolkit for cleaning up polluted sites. As for its application as a discouragement to vampires, that looks fairly promising, though apparently some vampires harbor more disaffection for garlic than others.

garlic and onion can filter out heavy metals

A Heavy Metal Filter with a Sustainability Twofer

Researchers are already beginning to look into food-related substances like lactate, bananas and vitamin B12 as a sustainable means of neutralizing toxic substances in soil, also known as “green remediation.”

Green remediation presents a marked improvement over conventional “remediation,” which used to involve either capping a site and letting the contaminants fester under the cap, or digging out tons of contaminated soil and trucking it to a landfill where it would also fester.


The Delhi University process is of particular interest because it involves a double dose of re-use.

The filter itself consists of waste biomass — namely, the leftovers from processing garlic and onions at food canneries. The biomass absorbs as much contaminants as it can handle, and then nitric acid is applied to separate the metals into another vessel. The filter can then be reused all over again.

The process depends on achieving an efficient pH of 5, and so far the researchers have found that this can be achieved under a relatively low temperature of 122 degrees Fahrenheit.

Using food production waste to make a reusable filter is good enough. To ice the cake, once the filter has outlived its usefulness as a contaminant-trapper, it can be slipped into the food waste stream as feedstock for biofuel refineries.

Commercial scale food waste biofuel is still in the development phase, but a pilot food waste biorefinery in Germany looks promising. So, let’s call this a sustainability threefer.

More and Better Green Remediation

The Delhi team isn’t alone in its quest to turn a vampire remedy into a bioremediation tool. In Bulgaria, a team of researchers is experimenting with on-site plantings of garlic and grasses to absorb contaminants.

The use of plantings in green remediation is a whole ‘nother ball of wax, since it can involve perennial grasses, shrubs and fast-growing trees like poplar, all of which can double as biofuel crops.

If garlic joins the green remediation/biofuel club, that gives you the fuel of the future: it’s sustainable, and it keeps vampires off your car, too.

Image (cropped): Garlic by photofarmer

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



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