Boosting a Plant's Germ-Killing Power with Metals

Jim Crocker
9th April, 2024

Boosting a Plant's Germ-Killing Power with Metals

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • In Slovakia, wild thyme effectively removes toxic metals like copper and lead from water
  • Wild thyme can absorb 12.66 mg of copper and 53.13 mg of lead per gram in minutes
  • After absorbing copper, wild thyme gains antibacterial properties against common bacteria
In recent years, the issue of heavy metal contamination in water has become a pressing environmental concern. Heavy metals such as copper (Cu) and lead (Pb) are toxic pollutants that can have detrimental effects on human health and ecosystems. Traditional methods for removing these contaminants from water often involve complex and costly processes. However, a new study from the Slovak Academy of Sciences offers a promising solution using a natural and sustainable approach[1]. The study explores the use of Thymus serpyllum L., commonly known as wild thyme, as a biosorbent for the removal of Cu(II) and Pb(II) ions from water. A biosorbent is a biological material that can bind and remove certain substances from liquids, in this case, heavy metals from water. The researchers discovered that wild thyme has a high adsorption capacity, meaning it can effectively capture and hold onto these metal ions. Specifically, the plant showed an adsorption capacity of 12.66 mg of Cu(II) per gram and 53.13 mg of Pb(II) per gram after just 10 and 30 minutes of contact, respectively. The significance of this discovery is twofold. Firstly, it provides an eco-friendly and low-cost method for purifying water with high efficiency. Secondly, the copper-laden wild thyme also demonstrated antibacterial properties, particularly against the bacteria Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus. This suggests that the plant, after adsorbing the copper ions, can be further used as an antibacterial agent. This research builds upon previous studies that have investigated the use of agricultural waste products as adsorbents for pollutant removal[2][3]. For instance, avocado waste and grape stalk waste have been shown to be effective in adsorbing various toxicants from water. These studies underscore the potential of using waste materials and natural substances as cost-effective and sustainable solutions for environmental remediation. Furthermore, the study aligns with the growing interest in post-sorption applications of adsorbent materials[4]. The idea is to not only remove pollutants but also to repurpose the saturated adsorbents into value-added products such as fertilizers, catalysis agents, or even antibacterial materials, as demonstrated by the wild thyme's interaction with copper ions. The process of adsorption involves the accumulation of particles at the surface of a solid or liquid. In the context of this study, the wild thyme's surface chemistry allows it to attract and bind with the metal ions present in the water. This process is influenced by factors such as contact time, the concentration of metal ions, and the pH of the solution. The study's findings indicate that wild thyme is particularly adept at this process, achieving high adsorption in a short time frame. The Slovak Academy of Sciences' research not only presents a new application for a common plant but also contributes to the broader goal of sustainable environmental management. By harnessing the natural properties of wild thyme, this method provides a dual benefit: cleaning contaminated water and offering a potential tool in the fight against harmful bacteria. In conclusion, the utilization of Thymus serpyllum L. as a biosorbent for heavy metal ions presents an innovative and sustainable approach to address water contamination. Its high adsorption capacity and subsequent antibacterial properties after copper uptake make it a promising candidate for wastewater treatment and soil remediation. This study demonstrates the potential of natural resources in developing environmental solutions that are both effective and environmentally friendly.

EnvironmentBiotechPlant Science


Main Study

1) Triggering antibacterial activity of a common plant by biosorption of selected heavy metals.

Published 8th April, 2024

Related Studies

2) A review of avocado waste-derived adsorbents: Characterizations, adsorption characteristics, and surface mechanism.

3) Removal of lead(II) and cadmium(II) from aqueous solutions using grape stalk waste.

Journal: Journal of hazardous materials, Issue: Vol 133, Issue 1-3, May 2006

4) Valorisation of post-sorption materials: Opportunities, strategies, and challenges.

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