A false-color image of tree branch filter.

A false-color image of tree branch filter.

Michael Boutilier and Jongho Lee

Turning a Tree Branch Into a Water Filter

In search of a low-cost and simple solution for filtering dirty water in developing nations, researchers have rediscovered the humble tree. A piece of freshly cut sapwood from pine trees can remove 99% of Escherichia coli bacteria in water, scientists report in PLOS ONE. Dirty water is a major cause of mortality in the developing world, and the old-school technology, which contains xylem (a porous tissue that can remove particles), could save millions of lives a year.

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