Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad (IIT-H) have used an unconventional material to remove fluoride from drinking water - jamun seeds.
Using a jamun seed based 'Activated Carbon', the researchers demonstrated that they could bring down fluoride to levels that were considered acceptable by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The findings were published recently in the Journal of Environmental Chemical Engineering. A team led by Professor Chandra Shekhar Sharma, Assistant Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering, IIT Hyderabad conducted the study.
As part of the process, jamun seed powder was converted to a highly porous carbon material, by chemical treatment, following which it was processed at high temperatures to improve its efficiency.
Initially, trials were carried out with synthetic fluoride solutions prepared in the laboratory.
Later, the researchers tested the trial on actual groundwater samples collected from Nalgonda District in Telangana, which is one of the worst fluoride-affected areas in India.
Post-treatment, the researchers observed that the fluoride concentration was reduced to the acceptable limit of WHO, which is less than 1.5 mg/litre.
Explaining the importance of this work, Professor Chandra Shekhar Sharma said, â€śIn India, Groundwater is the major and preferred source of drinking water. Almost 17 states are found to be having higher fluoride concentrations in groundwater than the recommended limit. The presence of excess fluoride content creates a major problem in safe drinking water supply.â€ť
"This research can go a long way in helping the country provide clean and safe drinking water to everyone. Although there is a long way to go before successful commercialisation of this idea, the research has demonstrated a potential for a bio-based waste material like jamun seed for fluoride removal from drinking water. Given the situation of excess fluoride in a country like India, this kind of cost-effective approach certainly is needed," Sharma added.
â€śThe performance of the jamun seed derived carbon was found to be superior to most of the other biomass-derived carbons as jamun is a seasonal fruit abundantly available in India and jamun seed powder is known to be used effectively in various Ayurvedic formulations,â€ť Sharma said.
Ramya Araga, lead author of the study, said that the prepared carbon material was examined in detail and found to have exceptional properties.
Now, the team is working on the removal of various aquatic pollutants from a water body, using the same kind of carbon.
Professor Chandra Shekhar Sharma was recently selected for the prestigious Young Scientist Award by National Science Academy of India, for his contribution to Physical Sciences.
IIT-H is one of the six new Indian Institutes of Technology established by the Centre in 2008, built on a 570-acre campus. Within a decade, the University has been ranked number 10 among research and teaching institutions in Engineering in the India Rankings 2017 list, released by the HRD Ministry.