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How egg whites can remove salt and microplastics from water

A team led by mechanical engineer Craig Arnold, from the Princeton Center for Complex Materials, USA, created a compound with egg white proteins that can remove salt from sea water and filter out microplastics. The researchers mixed the proteins with graphene to create an ultralight and porous solid material, the liquid part of which was replaced by a gas—an aerogel—that was 98% efficient at removing salt from seawater and 99% efficient at removing microplastics. The compound was obtained by drying and heating egg whites to 900 degrees Celsius, resulting in a structure of interconnected strands of carbon fibers and sheets of graphene—other proteins could form a similar structure (NSF Newsletter, January 18; Materials Today, October).