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Research finds wheat bran could be used to treat water, clean oil spills

Mayville State students Sean Pollack, left, and Sydney Magsam are a part of a group looking at ways wheat bran and chickpeas can be used in new ways. Photo by Sydney Mook/Grand Forks Herald

MAYVILLE, N.D. — Students at Mayville State University are studying new ways wheat bran and chickpeas can be used to help the agriculture industry in the state.

For the past couple of years, Khwaja Hossain, a professor at Mayville State, has been devising processes for using wheat bran to reinforce other materials. Hossain said wheat bran has the potential to be an effective and economical reinforcing material because of its low density, non-abrasive nature, availability, low cost and renewability.

Wheat bran has very few uses outside of making wheat bran flour, said Hossain, pointing to new use in a potential water treatment.

Hossain, along with a group of MSU students, burned the wheat bran at a very high temperature, causing it to char. The researchers then took samples from local water sources, such as Mayville’s Island Park and the Goose River, and poured the water through the charred bran. The water appeared much clearer after going through the bran.

Now, the water has been sent to the state lab for testing to see if the bran helped remove any heavy metals or other pollutants.

Hossain and the students are also studying whether wheat bran could be used to absorb oil spills. Hossain said early tests have shown that wheat bran will absorb oil, which could be extracted for use later.

All of these uses have importance for North Dakotans in particular as the state, one of the nation's top wheat producers, experiences numerous oil spills annually.

“If the price of wheat goes down, then farmers might not be as interested to grow wheat because they aren’t getting as much money as they should be which can lead to trouble,” Hossain said. “If we could add some alternate uses of the wheat plant, that could add some benefit to the farmers.”

Sean Pollack, a senior biology major working on the wheat bran project, said he is proud of the work he is doing because he feels it will have an impact on the world.

“I feel like the things I do here not only help me learn as a biology student, but they also help me make an impact,” he said. “There’s so much potential with all of the projects we work on, and it makes me feel good to know that I am contributing to that.”

Cory Norman, a senior who is triple majoring in special education, physical education and sports management, said he didn’t know very much about wheat bran before participating in the project, but learning about what the product can do for the environment has been a learning experience.

Hossain’s students also are studying ways medicines can be used alongside plants to treat various types of diseases.

The study is exploring ways that a diabetic medicine could be absorbed into a bio-based material, such as chickpeas, to create a more readily absorbable form within a human body.

Sydney Magsam, a junior fitness and wellness/exercise science major, said she has learned a lot since she started working on the chickpea project.

“I feel like I would not generally be interested in something like this, but working here has made me interested in a lot of this stuff,” she said.

Sydney Mook

Sydney Mook has been covering higher education at the Grand Forks Herald since May 2018. She previously served as the multimedia editor and cops, courts and health reporter at the Dickinson Press from January 2016 to May 2018.  She graduated from the University of South Dakota with a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science in three and half years in December 2015. While at the USD, she worked for the campus newspaper, The Volante, as well as the television news show, Coyote News. She also interned at South Dakota Public Broadcasting and spent the summer before her senior year interning in Fort Knox for the ROTC Cadet Summer Training program. In her spare time, Sydney enjoys cheering on the New York Yankees and the Kentucky Wildcats, as well as playing golf. If you've got an idea for a video be sure to give her a call!

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