Katie F. recently won 3rd place at the San Francisco Science Fair. Her work was selected from nearly 3,000 projects completed at schools across the city. Below is an overview of her project in her own words (lightly edited):
My goal is to find an affordable, simple, unlimited resource that can be used to filter contaminated water and give people all over the world access to clean water. After volunteering at Matter of Trust, a non-profit based in San Francisco that tackles the detrimental crisis of oil spills in our oceans using hair mats, I wondered if hair might be able to filter contaminants within dirty drinking water.
Not having access to safe, drinkable water is a very prevalent issue in many developing countries. Everyone has hair. Hair is a never-ending resource that grows more and more every day that everyone has access to. The purpose of my experiment is to determine whether hair can be a resource to give people access to clean, drinkable water, and if so, will the hair color affect the outcome of how much the hair filters?
In order to figure out if my reasoning was reliable, I got three different color hair samples from Matter of Trust. I got blonde, brown, and black hair. I decided to see if hair could filter common toxins within water that can make it unsafe to drink, such as abnormal amounts of salinity and potential hydrogen (pH). For each substance, I will test twice for all of the different hair colors. For salinity, I will test how much salinity was inside of one cup of water from the sink mixed with two tablespoons of salt. Then I will pour that same liquid through a specific hair color of 3.7 grams to see if the salinity level will lower. For pH acidic and basic, I will do the same thing, however, for acidic I will use one cup of water mixed with ½ cup of apple cider vinegar, and for basic, I will use two cups of water and six tablespoons of baking soda.
After running these tests, I noticed that the black hair, being the thickest in pigment, tends to filter the most acidic and basic substances. Although my hypothesis was not supported by my data that blonde hair would filter the most, the levels of contamination dropped from all of the different hair colors. Blonde hair did filter the salinity the best.
To learn more about the San Francisco Science Fair, please visit: https://www.randallmuseum.org/2020-san-francisco-middle-school-science-fair/