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Researchers make mind-blowing discovery about potential use for tons of discarded beer yeast: 'A significant advantage'

"The yeast themselves are bio-based, benign, and biodegradable."

"The yeast themselves are bio-based, benign, and biodegradable."

Photo Credit: iStock

What if the solution to removing harmful lead from our drinking water is sitting in the trash bins behind breweries?

An exciting innovation from researchers at MIT and Georgia Tech proves that this long-overlooked resource could be a game-changer for communities, according to Interesting Engineering.

The scientists created special capsules filled with waste yeast discarded by beer breweries. Amazingly, they found that a single brewery produces enough yeast waste to potentially treat an entire city's water supply.

When the encapsulated yeast is used to build water filters, it absorbs lead and other heavy metals through a natural process called biosorption. This allows the yeast to pull out even tiny traces of lead as water passes through, resulting in H2O that's safe to drink.

"We have the hydrogel surrounding the free yeast that exists in the center, and this is porous enough to let water come in, interact with yeast as if they were freely moving in water, and then come out clean," explained Patricia Stathatou, a research scientist at Georgia Tech who worked on the project. Her team's findings made waves when they hit the pages of RSC Sustainability.

The benefits of this innovative finding go beyond its environmental perks. Exposure to lead, even at low levels, is linked to nervous system problems, learning challenges, and stunted growth in kids. Using yeast to remove this contaminant could be a major boon for public health, especially in low-income areas with aging water systems.

What's more, the process requires less energy than other water treatment methods, and the biodegradable yeast makes it an eco-friendly alternative. The research team envisions these innovative filters being used everywhere, from household faucets to large treatment facilities.

"The fact that the yeast themselves are bio-based, benign, and biodegradable is a significant advantage over traditional technologies," Stathatou said.

Tests show that the biofilters can remove enough lead to meet strict EPA drinking water standards. The scientists are now exploring ways to recycle and replace the yeast after use.

So, next time you crack open a cold one, remember that that golden beverage could hold the key to safer water for communities everywhere. Who knows what other planet-helping potential is brewing in our labs?

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