WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded more than $1 million in grants to 15 university and college teams for innovative off-grid solutions.
Projects include a new process that uses spinach to capture and convert the sun’s energy to electricity and a partnership with a local landfill to design a process that uses waste heat and drainage to grow algae for biodiesel production. If one of the teams below is in your area they might be able to use your off-grid home or community as a test bed for ongoing research. Contact via the college or the EPA web site:
The projects were selected from more than 300 college innovators showcasing sustainable projects, almost all designed to facilitate off-grid living and use natural resources more efficiently. Following an initial peer review process, the EPA selected 45 teams for two days of judging by a panel of national experts convened to provide recommendations to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Here is a complete list of the best projects:
* Appalachian State University for developing an artificial wetland suitable for recycling of grey water from small businesses for immediate reuse.
* Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for designing a foldable solar power water purification system that can fit into a backpack for easy transport for use after a disaster affecting drinking water supply.
* Gonzaga University for developing a simple ventilation system for kitchens in rural dwellings using electrical power generated from thermoelectric cells driven by waste heat from cooking fires.
* Princeton University for developing, testing and deploying an electricity generation system that can be transported in a standard shipping container and rapidly set up in rural communities and post disaster areas.
* Santa Clara University for developing a fuel cell capable of continuous sustainable energy supply to meet energy demands in communities lacking reliable energy grids.
* Texas State University – San Marcos for converting rice husks, a byproducts of agriculture, into a starter material called lignocellulose for producing fabrics, biofuel and silica nanoparticles.
* University of California – Riverside for designing a solar collector to heat ambient air for use in home appliances, such as clothes dryers and space heaters, to reduce home energy consumption.
* University of Cincinnati for developing a pilot scale system to convert trap grease from restaurants, a waste sent to landfills, to renewable biodiesel.
* University of Connecticut for investigating ways to use local industrial byproducts such as steel slag and lime kilm dust to control erosion and to stabilize roads.
* University of Oklahoma – Norman for design, field-test, construct, instrument, analyze and document a habitat for humanity house built of compressed earth blocks (CEB).
* Vanderbilt University for developing a biohyrid solar panel that substitutes a protein from spinach for rare metals (mined) and is capable of producing electricity.
* Christian Brothers University for developing technologies to improve energy efficiency in the building envelope of residencies in Memphis, Tenn., that focus on the thermal properties of materials, fire safety, material stability and cost.
* Clarkson University for studying the feasibility of using waste heat and leachate from a solid waste management facility for energy to produce biodiesel from algae.
* Drexel University for designing a pilot-scale reactor for local landfill that uses algae to produce biofuels from landfill leachate and gas.
* Purdue University for designing, building and installing affordable ram pumps to improve the availability of water for its citizens.
* Rochester Institute of Technology for designing a hydrofoil system that harvests energy from a river while minimizing the harmful effects that dams create for river flow and sediments.
* Santa Clara University for developing a high efficiency solar absorber/exchanger that can bring low cost energy to urbanites who have limited space for solar collectors.
* Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville for evaluating the use of selenium-polluted plant waste materials harvested from phytoremediation sites to produce selenium-enriched edible mushrooms.
* University of Texas at Austin for designing, constructing and testing vermicomposting (composting with worms) bins to improve public health by reducing water contamination from organic waste.
* University of California – Davis for designing and monitoring an affordable green roof technology that uses the shading from plant to cool roof surfaces and reduce peak electricity demand by up to 75 percent.
* Missouri University of Science and Technology for developing a control system that opens and closes windows to maximize natural ventilation and save energy by sensing differences in outdoor and indoor climate conditions.
* University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for creating and implementing a point-of-view disinfectant for drinking water that is cheap, non-toxic and effective in reducing waterborne illness.
“The competition and expo are not only about EPA’s prestigious P3 award, but also about supporting the next generation of this country’s innovators and entrepreneurs who are entering the environmental and public health field with passion to make a difference and many brilliant ideas,” said Lek Kadeli, acting assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “The P3 program gives these students the opportunity to bring those ideas to realization and many have the potential to make significant impacts on our nation’s sustainable future and development of environmental technologies.”
Each P3 award-winning team will receive a grant of up to $90,000 to further develop their design, apply it to real world applications or move it to the marketplace. Previous P3 award winners have started successful businesses and are marketing the technologies in the U.S. and around the world.
This year’s expo was co-sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers, Engineers without Borders-USA, Engineering for Change and the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. The U.S. Army recognized three teams for projects that fit the Army’s NetZero initiative. The team from University of Texas at Austin received recognition for Zero Waste for their use of vermicomposting to reduce solid waste. Embry Riddle Aeronautical University developed a lightweight solar powered battery backup water purification system that reflects the Army’s Zero Water efforts. University of California at Davis was recognized for their cool roofs project promoting Zero Energy. Additionally, the Paladin Capital Group recognized Vanderbilt University’s project working on solar cells with the “Marketplace Innovation Award.”
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