Raul Pineda Olmedo, a biology expert from the National University of Mexico (UNAM), developed a biofilter that uses microorganisms living in peanut shells to purify the air of pollutants such as solvents and methanol. Doctors Fermin Perez Guevara and Frédéric Thalasso Sire, from the Research Center of Advanced Studies (CINVESTAV) in Mexico, were part of this experiment
In Mexico peanut shells are produced in large amounts and are generally considered to be a valueless agricultural residue. The department of Environmental Technology highlighted that microorganisms grow naturally on peanut shells and suggested these microorganisms can be used to purify the air. Olmedo designed a prototype filter comprising of peanut shells, this then cultivates the microorganisms in order to break down the toxic pollutants into water and carbon dioxide, thus obtaining clean air.
The peanut shell is special for these applications because it is naturally hollow and has an area of contact with air, which favors the development of microorganisms
Raul Pineda Olmedo, National University of Mexico
Olmedo also stated that this organic material could be used as biological filters, similar to those used in cars, though rather than stopping dust, they can help degrade the contaminants. This new development focuses on preventing air pollution in contaminated workplaces of companies handling solvents or inks.
The prototype filter, which looks like a kitchen extractor or a bell, can perform multiple functions. Not only will it absorb and store pollution vapors, the filter can also degrade and purify the air.
Olmedo explains that the filter synthesizes microorganisms, such as Brevibacterium and Fusarium, within an average period of 28 days. Bacteria and fungi take the carbon from pollution to reproduce and breath.
This new technology can be used in everyday life, and while it hasn't been exploited extensively in Mexico, Olmedo is eager to commercialize the innovation. He also plans to develop a demonstration prototype that can be used in schools, making it accessible and allowing students to easily use and replicate this invention.