Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology-Hyderabad (IIT-H) have developed a jamun (black plum) seed-based ‘activated carbon’ to remove fluoride from drinking water to the levels considered acceptable by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

A team led by Chandra Shekhar Sharma, assistant professor, Department of Chemical Engineering at IIT-Hyderabad, was involved in the study and the findings were recently published in the Journal of Environmental Chemical Engineering.

Jamun seed powder was first converted into a highly porous carbon material by a chemical treatment followed by processing at higher temperatures to improve its efficiency. Then, trials were carried out with the obtained material for synthetic fluoride solutions prepared in the laboratory.

Later, this was tested on the groundwater samples collected from Nalgonda district, one of the worst fluoride-affected areas in the country. After the treatment, the fluoride concentration was reduced to the acceptable limit of WHO (less than 1.5 mg/l).

“We found that the jamun seed-derived carbon was much better when compared to other biomass-derived carbons which were reported in earlier experiments. Jamun, as a seasonal fruit, is abundantly available in India and its seed powder is known to be used effectively in various Ayurvedic formulations,” explained Prof. Sharma.

“The carbon material prepared with jamun seeds has been studied in detail and found to have exceptional properties,” chipped in Ramya Araga, the lead author of the study.

Prof. Sharma also pointed out that groundwater was a major source of drinking water throughout the country and in about 17 States, fluoride concentration was found to be higher than the recommended limit. This has been a major problem in safe drinking water supply and the search was on to find a cost-effective solution. Although commercialisation of the experiment has a long way to go, more research into the bio-seed-based waste material for removing fluoride from drinking water could help the country to provide clean and safe drinking water to the citizens, added the IIT-H professor, recently chosen for the prestigious Young Scientist Award by the National Science Academy of India for his contribution to physical sciences.

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