From a native species, FAUBA researchers developed a material capable of extracting close to 100% of this chemical element that affects a large part of our country. They propose the integral use of the crop.
Various native species of woody bamboos grow in Argentina, but their cultivation and use is not widespread. In this framework, researchers from the Faculty of Agronomy of the UBA (FAUBA) study its multiple uses, among which is the remediation of water with arsenic, a very frequent problem in much of the country. In a joint work with the University of Mississippi, USA, using cane biofuels from native bamboo, it was possible to remove about 100% of this metalloid in highly polluted waters. They propose to give more visualization to the crop.
"The bamboos ofGuadua chacoensis They are distributed in the northeast region of the country, where they are used exclusively in construction and to produce handicrafts. That is why we think about taking advantage of it in a comprehensive way. In principle, we are actively working on using the reeds to produce biofuels capable of remediating waters contaminated with arsenic ”, commented Andrea Vega, professor and researcher at the General Botany Department at FAUBA.
“From reeds of the native speciesGuadua chacoensis Without commercial value, coming from productive establishments, we elaborated the biochar and put it to the test. So far, we could see that the material has a high arsenic adsorption capacity. We achieve almost 100% removal in water with 10 milligrams per liter (mg / L) of arsenic, a concentration one thousand times higher than that recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) ”, highlighted Jacinta Alchouron, who studies the subject in his doctoral thesis at the Graduate School 'Ing. Agr. Alberto Soriano ’from FAUBA.
In this sense, he added: “The arsenic concentrations we study are higher than those found in water naturally, but our results make us think that bamboo biofuels would work well for those values. It could be an economical and effective option to treat this problem that affects almost four million people in our country. At the same time, it would allow the crop to acquire greater visibility, and its producers could benefit more from doing it ”.
The invisible killer
“Arsenic is a natural pollutant of the groundwater of our country. It is a toxic metalloid that in the event of chronic consumption in water or food can produce different diseases that are grouped into what is called Chronic Regional Endemic Hydroarsenicism. These can be found from various skin problems to bladder, lung and kidney cancers, "said Alchouron.
“The WHO suggests consuming water with less than 10 micrograms of arsenic per liter (ug / L). Our food code allows a concentration of 50 ug / L, but it would be convenient to reduce this concentration to 10 ug / L. This requires greater investment in technologies that allow the detection of arsenic, among other things. In turn, to remedy water in rural and isolated populations, precise, low-cost and easy-to-handle methods are needed. Bamboo cane biofuels could comply with these last aspects and, therefore, we are deepening their study ”, he assured.
Alchouron explained that biofuels are only used to remediate water, soil or air. “They can be obtained in a simple way by exposing the reeds to high temperatures in the absence of oxygen, with a clay oven or a covered well. We received the help of the Department of Biomolecular Chemistry at FAUBA to carry out many analyzes, from the Argentine company EcoGreenChip to chop the canes and from the UBA to travel to the University of Mississippi to investigate the biocarbons ofG. chacoensis. The members of the American laboratory were surprised by the remedial aptitude of this native species ”.
In addition, the researcher told the site of scientific dissemination On Earth that they compared the remedial capacity of four biofuels that they generated with the same species: “one, conventional; another, activated —that is, with a treatment that increased its specific surface 185 times— and two others impregnated with iron: the conventional magnetized and the activated magnetized ”.
And he continued: “We vary the time of contact with the contaminated water, the pH and the concentrations of arsenic. We observed that the activation did not produce superior results to the other treatments, so we believe that it would not be necessary. What's more, avoiding activation saves time and money ”.
Alchouron noted that in Asia the remedial capacity of bamboo biofuels was extensively investigated, but neither the species nor the age of the plants, factors that influence the properties of the biochar, are specified in the literature. In a previous investigation, the researcher compared the biofuels obtained in different stages of the crop and concluded that the discard canes were the ones that performed the best. "We seek to give commercial value to productive waste, favor the economy of sugarcane producers and contribute to solving the serious problem of arsenic in water," he closed.