CHENNAI: The researchers of Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-M) have shown that simple copper-coated jute beads are highly-effective in protecting water and preventing microbial contamination for at least five days, said a statement from the institute on Thursday.
This was an outcome of a team of researchers who were working aimed at solving the problem of water contamination and water-borne diseases in India, through cost-effective means. The process involves coating cuprous oxide or copper on little beads of jute that float on water.
The experts chose jute because of two reasons – it floats on water and jute sticks are an agricultural waste product that is affordable and available at low costs.
In many parts of the country, water is often collected and stored in containers for consumption. Such stored water can be easily contaminated due to the transfer of microbes from the air into the water, even if the container is kept closed. In many parts of the country, people boil water to purify it.
However, the water continues to be vulnerable to microbial contamination after cooling. Water purification units such as filters and RO units may not be affordable to all and techniques like RO (reverse osmosis) produce a lot of unusable wastewater during the process of purification.
The IIT-M statement said the research was led by Dillip Kumar Chand and his research student Randhir Rai from the Department of Chemistry, and Sathyanarayana Gummadi, Department of Biotechnology. The results were published in the reputed peer-reviewed journal ACS Omega, the statement said.
Chand, in the statement, said: “The use of copper as a disinfecting material has been well-known in India. However, beyond a certain limit, copper can be toxic, and it is important that too much copper does not leach into the water.”
To prove the disinfectant properties of the copper-coated jute beads, the researchers took four beakers of clean water, added uncoated jute beads to one, jute beads coated with copper to the second, jute beads coated with copper oxide to the third and left the fourth beaker as it was, and studied the microbial content in all the beakers periodically.
When the beakers were kept uncovered for twenty-four hours, the one with the copper and copper oxide-coated beads did not have any microbial growth while the one without the beads and the one with uncoated jute beads had significant microbial growth, the statement noted adding that even after five days, the microbial contamination in the water with coated beads were far less than in the beaker without the coated beads.