Harvard University students created a 3D printed “Tina” platform. To remove heavy metals from polluted environment.
Within the framework of the Harvard Master’s Program in Design Engineering, Riad Al-Sufi worked with his colleague Connie Wang. To develop a low-tech design that explores the potential of bioremediation, an organic process in which organisms such as bacteria naturally remove and break down toxins in the surrounding environment.
Not forgetting that dredging, pesticide residues and artificial pollution contribute to the pollution of about 40 percent of lakes and rivers worldwide, and climate change is exacerbating this phenomenon.
The fruit of the team’s efforts recently came in the form of TINA, a specialized platform for B. P. putida (a type of bacteria belonging to the genus Pseudomonas), grown in laboratory conditions simulating an estuary, thanks to real water samples taken from Romney Marsh and Revere Beach in Massachusetts.
These bacteria can extract manganese from any environment, separate the metal through a filter, then extract it, recycle it, and use it in lithium-ion batteries.
A floating platform for bacteria and plants
“Tina” takes the form of a floating island, and non-invasive local plants settle on it, some of which not only participate in the biosynthetic process, but also live in a symbiotic state with “B”. “Potida”.
A research paper found that the aforementioned bacteria strengthened the Oryza sativa rice plant by protecting it against common diseases. Live “with”. Putida” inside the stage, it grows on a curtain made of printed triangular period surfaces. The name may seem a little complicated to you, but the main function of these structures is to reduce the surface area of a certain space, which promotes the growth of bacteria and the production of a thin biological membrane.
“We learned that bacteria prefer to grow in flat, elongated areas, not edges and corners,” says Wang, adding that these structures are essential to promote the growth of B. Potida” she and her team had to test in no time.
Then, the membrane produced by “B” is withdrawn. putida extracts manganese from its environment by absorbing it, after the biofilm has exhausted its niche; The researchers used netting around the printed screen to protect other marine life from consuming bacteria-aggregated algae containing high and harmful concentrations of metals.
The development team explained to TINA that the device came simply; To facilitate a process that already occurs in nature.
For his part, one of the researchers participating in the study said: “For us, it is not a matter of thinking about what we will use in the design we create, but about how to use these natural systems that already exist, and use them in a way that works liberally.
It should be noted that the team members were not scientists, rather they worked with a group of Environmental Laboratory staff at Harvard University to learn the normal scientific methods applicable within the time frame of their experiment. For this reason, Wang said, the “TENA” platform was “tested with a more product and technology-centric mindset, where it’s better to be a little bit right than completely wrong.”
The team wanted to deliver definitive results at the end of their project period, when they only had 12 weeks to measure TINA’s performance. Participating researchers acknowledged that some parts of the process, particularly the part related to the removal of metals from the environment, would undergo further testing, but they emphasized that “Tina” would benefit from being considered a design project, not a scientific experiment.
Wang concluded: “We do not deny the need for a scientific path; Because it’s more valuable, no doubt, but I think more flexibility adds more value to certain types of design or engineering projects.
Finally, it is true that “TENA” was tested in a laboratory environment that used a specific type of bacteria to withdraw a specific type of metal from a specific environment, but the platform was designed to function even after adjusting for these variables.
* “Fast Company”, “Tribune Media” services.