New research shows that egg whites can be transformed into a material capable of filtering water.
Photo by Nathan Dumlao
Researchers at Princeton Engineering have found a way to turn your breakfast food into a new material that can cheaply remove salt and microplastics from seawater.
The researchers used egg whites to create an aerogel, a lightweight and porous material that can be used in many types of applications, including water filtration, energy storage, and sound and thermal insulation. Craig Arnold, the Susan Dod Brown Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and vice dean of innovation at Princeton, works with his lab to create new materials, including aerogels, for engineering applications.
One day, sitting in a faculty meeting, he had an idea.
“I was sitting there, staring at the bread in my sandwich,” said Arnold. “And I thought to myself, this is exactly the kind of structure that we need.” So he asked his lab group to make different bread recipes mixed with carbon to see if they could recreate the aerogel structure he was looking for. None of them worked quite right initially, so the team kept eliminating ingredients as they tested, until eventually only egg whites remained.
“We started with a more complex system,” Arnold said, “and we just kept reducing, reducing, reducing, until we got down to the core of what it was. It was the proteins in the egg whites that were leading to the structures that we needed.”
Egg whites are a complex system of almost pure protein that — when freeze-dried and heated to 900 degrees Celsius in an environment without oxygen — create a structure of interconnected strands of carbon fibers and sheets of graphene. In a paper published Aug. 24 in Materials Today, Arnold and his coauthors showed that the resulting material can remove salt and microplastics from seawater with 98% and 99% efficiency, respectively.
“The egg whites even worked if they were fried on the stove first, or whipped,” said Sehmus Ozden, first author on the paper. Ozden is a former postdoctoral research associate at the Princeton Center for Complex Materials and now a scientist at Aramco Research Center. While regular store-bought egg whites were used in initial tests, Ozden said, other similar commercially available proteins produced the same results.
“Eggs are cool because we can all connect to them and they are easy to get, but you want to be careful about competing against the food cycle,” said Arnold. Because other proteins also worked, the material can potentially be produced in large quantities relatively cheaply and without impacting the food supply. One next step for the researchers, Ozden noted, is refining the fabrication process so it can be used in water purification on a larger scale.
If this challenge can be solved, the material has significant benefits because it is inexpensive to produce, energy-efficient to use and highly effective. “Activated carbon is one of the cheapest materials used for water purification. We compared our results with activated carbon, and it’s much better,” said Ozden. Compared with reverse osmosis, which requires significant energy input and excess water for operation, this filtration process requires only gravity to operate and wastes no water.
While Arnold sees water purity as a “major grand challenge,” that is not the only potential application for this material. He is also exploring other uses related to energy storage and insulation.
The research included contributions from the departments of chemical and biological engineering and geosciences at Princeton and elsewhere. “It’s one thing to make something in the lab,” said Arnold, “and it’s another thing to understand why and how.” Collaborators who helped answer the why and how questions included professors Rodney Priestley and A. James Link from chemical and biological engineering, who helped identify the transformation mechanism of the egg white proteins at the molecular level. Princeton colleagues in geosciences assisted with measurements of water filtration.
Susanna Monti of the Institute for Chemistry of Organometallic Compounds and Valentina Tozzi from Instituto Nanoscienze and NEST-Scuola Normale Superiore created the theoretical simulations that revealed the transformation of egg white proteins into the aerogel.
Original Article: Researchers cook up a new way to remove microplastics from water
The Latest Updates from Bing News
Go deeper with Bing News on:
- Austin Water asks for conservation – but says don't expect (another) boil-water notice
Austin Water has called for three citywide boil-water notices in the last five years. Officials say customers shouldn't expect that after this week's freeze.
- Benton Harbor lead water lines near 100% replacement
Many enhancements have been made and are planned, which makes this funding extremely important. "Water coming from the filtration plant has been clean, top-tier, the last 18 months. We want to keep it ...
- Watch Live: Biden And Harris Tout Infrastructure Spending At Philly Water Treatment Plant
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will be visiting Philadelphia on Friday. Watch above as they speak about the bipartisan infrastructure bill's spending to replace old lead pipes at ...
- Live: Biden, Harris Visit Philly Water Treatment Plant, Speak to Democrats
The White House says President Joe Biden will focus on championing his administration’s accomplishments when he and Vice President Kamala Harris appear at a Democratic National Committee gathering ...
- 'Unfortunate setback': Damage delays start of Brunswick water treatment plant operations
H2GO’s highly anticipated reverse osmosis water treatment plant was set to begin operations last month, but accidental damage to a water transmission line requires repair that has delayed the plant’s ...
Go deeper with Bing News on:
Water purifying aerogel
- Best Filtered Water Bottles for 2023 to Remove Bacteria, Sediment and More
but when I poured a bit from the Geopress water purification bottle, I was shocked at how crystal-clear it looked. Although I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, as Grayl's heavy-duty ...
- Harnessing the power of the sun to purify water
Harnessing the power of the sun to purify water. In southern France, an innovative system called Helio is doing that. The self-sufficient small sphere can distil dirty water or seawater.
- Industrial Water Purification System Market Size In 2023 : 8% CAGR With Top Countries Data, Trends, Key Regions And Growth Forecast To 2033
The report predicts the global Industrial Water Purification System Market to grow with a CAGR of 8% over the forecast period from 2023-2033. Global Industrial Water Purification System Market ...
- Water Purification Uses Home-built Electrolysis Rig
If you plan ahead a little bit you could have your own system of water purification to use in emergencies. Everyone needs clean drinking water and this gadget will let your produce your own ...
- Midland City Council approves design for new water purification plant
MIDLAND, Texas — Midland City Council approved a professional services agreement with Enprotec/Hibbs and Todd, Inc. Tuesday for a new water purification plant. This will hopefully avoid another ...