Harmful algae blooms like the massive one that afflicted Lake Erie in 2011 are a serious threat to our waterways, but a chemistry researcher and his industrial partners are testing a new method of filtering agricultural wastewater with the help of an unexpected material: ground up shrimp and lobster shells.
Chitosan is a material made by treating crushed shellfish with sodium hydroxide, and professor Bulent Mutus is discovering that various forms are effective in lab tests at removing micronutrients, phosphates and metals like copper, zinc, and iron from greenhouse wastewater.
“There’s an inexpensive and plentiful supply of these materials, and we’ve been able to prove in concept that this can work,” said Dr. Mutus. “Now we’re just trying to scale it up in to an actual working filter that we can test in the field.”
Algal blooms are the result of an excess of nutrients, including nitrates and phosphates from household products and fertilizer used in agricultural and recreational settings, running off land into streams and rivers that drain in to warmer lakes. A large bloom could remove the water of oxygen fish and other aquatic wildlife need to survive.
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