Sand Coating, 3D Tech Make the Grade

MONDAY, JUNE 24, 2013

A naturally occurring coating that would enable sand to clean water pollutants and 3D technology that creates printable building components are among seven award-winning solutions developed by college and university students to address public health and environmental challenges.

The mind-bending building and coating technologies have captured two of the Environmental Protection Agency's prestigious 2013 P3 (People, Prosperity and the Planet) Awards.

The water-cleaning coating comes from students at Radford University (Radford, VA); the 3D technology, from collegians at San Jose State University.

EPA’s P3 Award competition, held in April at the 9th Annual National Sustainable Design Expo, challenges college students to design solutions for a sustainable future.

The competition is held in two phases: Winning teams in the first phase are awarded $15,000 to develop their idea. In the final round, winning teams receive up to $90,000 to refine their design and try to bring the technology to market.

Previous P3 award winners have started successful businesses and are marketing their technologies globally, according to EPA.

Sugar Sand

In the Radford University project, "Lessons from Nature - Synthetic Humic Acid Materials for Improved Water Purification," students are designing new coatings to help ordinary sand capture heavy metals, such as cadmium and lead, as well as arsenic and organic contaminants.

The design is based on humic acid, a naturally occurring compound that chemically grabs water pollutants. To improve performance, the team is designing a synthetic humic acid made from sugars with the potential to be more economical and effective than current processes, according to the project abstract.

Radford U - P3

Radford students received nearly $15,000 to further development of their water-purifying coating, made from a sugar-based synthetic humic acid.

The Radford team will receive a grant of $14,917 to pursue the technology in a year-long project.

Printable Facades

With the San Jose State University research, "3D Printing Sustainable Building Components for Facades and as Window Elements," students are applying 3D printer technology to make sustainable building materials.

Using saw dust instead of plastic, the team is making inexpensive window coverings such as shades and shutters that can be tailored easily to local climates, according to the project abstract.

The project, awarded $15,000, "is an integrative educational and research project that will revolutionize design and construction methods towards more sustainable buildings by developing recycled wood and glass 3D printed façade and window elements," the team says.

Other Winners

The other top five winners, their awards and projects are:

  • Loyola University of Chicago ($14,999), for developing a greener way, through a wetland and a distillation process, to treat and reuse byproducts of biodiesel;
  • University of Massachusetts - Lowell ($14,994), for creating nontoxic, biodegradable surfactants from fruit peels and algae, and seeing how they are effective;
  • Georgia Southern University ($15,000), for further innovating the Low Temperature Combustion diesel engine, to operate on locally sourced n-buthanol and cottonseed oil; thus designing a diesel engine that could create even lower NOx and soot emissions;
  • Cornell University ($15,000), for designing a simple, low-cost, lower-maintenance water filtration device for Honduras communities, using a stacked-rapid sand filter; and
  • Cornell University ($14,990), for evaluating and improving cookstove fuel resources in Kenyan communities, by burning solid fuel without oxygen, which can create biochar for soil enrichment.
San Jose State U - P3

San Jose State University students received a $15,000 grant for their research, which applies 3D printer technology to make sustainable building materials.

“This competition plays an important role in inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers to better understand, and through innovation and ingenuity more effectively solve, our world’s complex environmental problems,” said Lek Kadeli, principal deputy administrator for the EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

“The P3 program gives this nation’s students the opportunity to apply their creative ideas to real world situations and protect our nation’s environment in a more sustainable fashion.”

This year’s expo was co-sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers and Engineers without Borders, USA.

A complete list of the 2013 P3 winners, honorable mentions and other awards is available here.


Tagged categories: Awards and honors; Building facades; Coatings Technology; Coatings technology; Environmental Protection; EPA; Health and safety; Lead; Windows

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