Study Says Kombucha Cultures May Lead to Better and Sustainable Water Filters

Healthy and refreshing kombucha tea is very trendy nowadays, and for good reason! Studies have shown that along with holding a lot of health benefits, the kombucha cultures might also serve as the key to the improvement of water quality, with environmentally sustainable and affordable living water filtration membranes.

Photo: IStock

The Finding

A study about this interesting find was recently published in ACS ES&T Water, the journal of the American Chemical Society. According to the study, experiments by groups of researchers at Arizona State University (ASU) and Montana Technological University (MTU) have shown that kombucha cultures grown membranes were better than current commercial membranes in preventing the creation of biofilms, which is a major challenge in water filtration. But how does it work?

The Kombucha SCOBY

Kombucha is made by combining three simple ingredients- tea, sugar, and SCOBY. SCOBY is the kombucha culture, which stands for ‘Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast.’ This culture, SCOBY, is also commonly known as tea fungus, tea mushroom, Manchurian mushroom, or the “mother.” It is believed that kombucha tea originated from Manchuria in China or Russia. This SCOBY is a collection of jelly-like, but firm cellulose fiber or biofilm, which acts as a sourdough starter. The active bacteria in the culture create the perfect ground for the yeast to breed.

Photo: Istock

The Filtration Property

Now, this kombucha culture is highly potent as a useful biomaterial. Last year, scientists created a new type of tougher “living material” out of kombucha SCOBYs, which can be used as biosensors to detect damage in water or other packaged drinks. The team engineered the cells of the lab-grown SCOBY yeast to produce bioluminescent enzymes. These enzymes are capable of sensing pollutants in water. They also help in breaking them down after detection. As a result, now there is the prospect of developing SCOBY-based water filters, which will be more enhanced than the polymer-based commercial filters, in the process of purifying contaminated drinking water.