Tofu can be cooked in so many ways and is found in a variety of food products. From soy milk, to turkeys made from tofu, to stinky tofu, the soybean behind tofu is popular around the globe and is quite useful.
The wonder bean is proving so useful, in fact, researchers at Beijing’s University of Science and Technology and Washington State University (WSU) say it may soon combat smog.
The researchers claim that a soy-based filter they developed can actually catch particulate matter, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and other harmful volatile organic compounds that standard HEPA filters are incapable of catching. The filter is primarily made from soy protein isolate and bacterial cellulose. Soy is remarkable in this case because it contains 18 amino groups which are capable of absorbing hazardous pollution molecules. Common air filters made from micron-sized fibers of synthetic plastics are not able to chemically capture gaseous molecules, and the materials they are made from also lead to secondary pollution.
Professor Weihong (Katie) Zhong is the leader of the team as well as a Beijing native. She said the filter is all-natural, friendly to the environment, biodegradable and inexpensive. The team has been working on the project for a year, as they initially had some trouble securing funding for the research. Undaunted, Zhong believed in the project so much that she used her summer salary to hire a team of students to help with the research. Graduate students from the University of Science and Technology Beijing also assisted.
Patents for the soy filter have now been filed and, hopefully, more people will be willing to jump on board and help move the project along now that it’s proving to be something quite extraordinary. The filters are also cost-effective, since soybeans are some of the most abundant plants in the world; the filters may also pave the way for better air purifiers, which would especially be a huge plus for regions of the world where people suffer from poor air quality.
So many uses for the soybean, who knew?