Pithophora algae, also sometimes known as "horse hair" is a filamentous algae that is green in color and has a coarse texture.  Its presence in water bodies would cause low oxygen levels that would lead to fish kill that would in turn cause emission of an unpleasant odor.

Scientists from Uppsala University in Sweden and Dhaka University in Bangladesh have worked together on a publication in ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering to make these algae more useful.  Lead researcher and professor of nanotechnology at Uppsala University Albert Mihranyan explained the implications of their development.  "Pithophora algae have been largely overlooked in the past as valuable raw material," he said. "It is with great satisfaction that we can now document excellent pathogen removal clearance for both water-borne bacteria and viruses with efficiency above 99.999 percent. It can purify even the smallest virus particles of 27 to 28 nanometers."

The efficiency of their filters were tested using latex nanobeads, in vitro model viruses, and water samples from two bodies of water in Bangladesh-the Turag River and the Dhanmondi Lake.

The product can be mass-produced at a low cost as the researchers believe.  This is because unlike traditional filters made from trees, the raw material for this new filter can be inexpensively cultivated, collected, and processed without the need for heavy equipment.

In Bangladesh, the population density is high, making the demand for water high as well.  And as of now, their water supply is already not enough.  Since population growth is an unstoppable action, this demand in water will undoubtedly grow as well.  Project coordinator in Bangladesh and honorary professor at University of Dhaka Khondkar Siddique-e-Rabbani expressed his hopefulness with the outcome of their research and how it can help solve water scarcity in the country.  "Access to clean water will contribute strongly to improved health thus reducing poverty," he explained.  "We are optimistic that through future development of devices the filter paper produced from the locally growing algae will be useful to prevent potentially deadly water-borne diseases and improve the quality of life for millions of people."

The algae in the experiment used to cause trouble in bodies of water.  But scientists have now found use for it, which shows how one thing that was once a problem can become the solution after all.