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UCF among student teams to receive EPA funding for innovative sustainable projects

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as announced 38 People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) grants to university student teams for proposed projects to develop new, sustainable products and strategies. Each team will receive up to $15,000 for their proposals.

“This year’s P3 teams have created innovative research projects that tackle some of our most pressing environmental and public health challenges,” said Dr. Thomas A. Burke, EPA’s Science Advisor and Deputy Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “These students have the opportunity to bring their exciting new ideas for innovation in sustainability to life, by expanding their learning experience beyond the classroom.”

The research project proposed by University of Central Florida students will establish and advance fundamentals associated with a ‘waste–products’ vision centered on recycling organic waste to a biofuel. The project seeks to overcome some of the economic barriers for implementing algae-biostock production by integrating previously studied methods for increasing efficiency and lowering production costs in algae cultivation. The UCF process, termed ABODE (Algae Biofuel Osmosis Dewatering), involves a photobioreactor for the growth of algae using secondary waste water with an attached forward osmosis (FO) extraction process to dewater the algae for bioenergy production using sustainable, low-cost draw solutions.

Funding for the P3 competition is divided into two phases. Teams selected for Phase I awards receive grants of up to $15,000 to fund the development of their projects, which are then showcased at the National Sustainable Design Expo in the spring. Following the Expo, P3 teams compete for Phase II awards of up to $75,000 to further develop their designs and potentially bring them to the marketplace.

This year’s teams are testing innovative ideas such as repurposing chemical byproducts from the mining industry into new concrete that helps inhibit the corrosion of steel and developing a food waste collection kiosk that will spur food waste to energy production in the local community.

Previous P3 teams have used their sustainable ideas and gone on to start businesses. Lucid Design traces its beginnings back to EPA’s first P3 award to the founders’ Oberlin College team in 2004. Lucid Design specializes in tracking and analyzing energy consumption and resource use data for clients that include Google and Sony.

In 2011, a P3 team from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University developed a portable, solar powered, water purification system in the form of a backpack. The team went on to launch AquaSolve Ventures to produce backpacks that are capable of purifying an impressive 4,300 gallons of water a day. Yet another P3 success is the startup OneEarth Designs, which specializes in solar powered technology, formed from a 2010 Harvard University P3 team. One Earth Designs’ signature product, the SolSource 3-in-1, is a 100 percent solar powered grill that can harness the power of the sun to provide home heating and electricity.

Source: EPA News Release