Natto Power Cleans Dirty Water
Another recently discovered way that natto works is completely unrelated to food. Polyglutamic acid precipitates pollutants in water, leaving the water clean. In fact, clarifying agents made from polyglutamic acid are capable of cleaning dirty water faster than agents made from chemicals like polyaluminum chloride or ferric chloride, and they offer a number of other advantages. Unlike chemical products, only one clarifying agent containing polyglutamic acid is necessary to clean water, making it very convenient to use. In addition, these clarifying agents are made from natural materials, and are environmentally friendly and affordable.
Polyglutamic clarifying agents are used these days to clean the dirty water that drains into the environment from factories, houses and apartments. They are also used in overseas initiatives realized with the assistance of the Japanese government, such as a project to clean drinking water in Bangladesh.
How polyglutamic acid precipitates dirt and pollutants to make the water clean. (1) Pollutants (orange dots) in the untreated water (2) bond to the polyglutamates (white strings) and (3) settle to the bottom. (Illustration: Nippon Poly-Glu Co., Ltd.)
Left: Using a clarifying agent to clean water
Right: Children in Bangladesh enjoy clean water (Photos: Nippon Poly-Glu Co., Ltd.)
Researchers have found that polyglutamic acid not only cleans water, but it also has the ability to absorb massive amounts of water. Natto resin (the white substance in front of the beaker), whose main constituent is polyglutamic acid, absorbs water, transforming it into the gel-like substance shown in the beaker. (Photo: Dr. Toshio Hara, Kyushu University)
In addition to Bangladesh, these clarifying agents are exported to more than 30 countries around the world, including Thailand and Mexico. They have also been used to clean water for people living in disaster-stricken areas, such as after the recent Great East Japan Earthquake. Indeed, polyglutamic acid is coming into use in an increasingly wider range of undertakings.
Another recent discovery related to polyglutamic acid is its incredible capacity for absorption. Research shows that a single gram of natto resin, whose main constituent is polyglutamic acid, is capable of absorbing and retaining an astonishing five liters of water. Studies have shown that it is possible to grow plants in an arid area by planting the seedling with natto resin and watering only once. Research is being conducted in practical applications for greening regions with little rainfall. Polyglutamic acid, the simple substance that makes natto sticky, is bound to be the subject of much more attention in the future. Who knows what other potential uses it may have?
(Updated in January 2012)