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EPA Awards $14K Grant to K-State for Innovative Technology Project

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Ashley Murdie (

Environmental News


EPA seal(Lenexa, Kan., March 22, 2018) – Kansas State University is among 31 schools selected to receive Phase I grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s People, Prosperity, and the Planet (P3) Program. These university teams, made up of students from across the country, are developing sustainable technologies to solve current environmental and public health challenges.

“This year’s P3 teams are applying their classroom learning to create innovative and practical technologies,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “This next generation of scientists has demonstrated a commitment to designing sustainable solutions that will help protect public health and the environment and ensure America continues to lead the world in innovation and science for decades to come.”

K-State’s grant of $14,964 will be used to explore an alternative eco-friendly and renewable energy that supports sustainable economic development. The project titled, “Fully utilizing biomass for biofuels and chemicals,” involves developing a novel biorefining process to achieve high ethanol titer and high ethanol fermentation efficiency, while also fully utilizing each component of lignocellulosic biomass for biofuel and bio-chemical production.

"EPA Region 7 congratulates K-State on their notable achievements in science and in earning this national EPA grant," said EPA Region 7 Administrator Jim Gulliford. "Through the P3 program, EPA is able to support student-driven research that opens doors to new technology and creative solutions for sustainability. It's encouraging to see this type of creativity being applied to biofuels right here in the Heartland. We look forward to seeing K-State showcase their work."

“We are proud and pleased to be a recipient of the EPA’s People, Prosperity and the Planet Phase I grant,” said Donghai Wang, professor of biological and agricultural engineering at Kansas State University and principal investigator on the award. “Our student team has worked hard on this challenge and are excited to present in Washington, D.C., next month.”

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 proof of concept for their projects, which are then showcased at the National Sustainable Design Expo. The 2018 Expo is scheduled to be held at the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C., April 7-8, 2018. Phase I teams are eligible to compete for Phase II awards of up to $75,000 to further develop and implement their designs.

Grantees include student teams from the following universities:

  • Case Western Reserve University – Cleveland, Ohio
  • Cornell University – Ithaca, New York
  • Georgia Technology Research Corporation – Atlanta, Georgia
  • Kansas State University – Manhattan, Kansas
  • Kennesaw State University – Kennesaw, Georgia
  • Loyola University of Chicago – Chicago, Illinois
  • Mercer University – Macon, Georgia
  • Michigan Technological University – Houghton, Michigan
  • Montana State University, Bozeman – Bozeman, Montana
  • North Dakota State University – Fargo, North Dakota
  • Oklahoma State University – Stillwater, Oklahoma
  • Old Dominion University Research Foundation – Norfolk, Virginia
  • Purdue University – West Lafayette, Indiana
  • The Sage Colleges – Albany, New York
  • University of Alabama – Tuscaloosa, Alabama
  • University of California, Davis – Davis, California
  • University of California, Riverside – Riverside, California
  • University of Central Florida – Orlando, Florida
  • University of Delaware – Newark, Delaware 
  • University of Kentucky – Lexington, Kentucky
  • University of Maryland, Baltimore County – Baltimore, Maryland
  • University of Massachusetts, Lowell – Lowell, Massachusetts
  • University of Miami – Coral Gables, Florida
  • University of Michigan, Ann Arbor – Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • University of Oklahoma – Norman, Oklahoma
  • University of Southern California – Los Angeles, California
  • University of Texas at Arlington – Arlington, Texas
  • University of Washington – Seattle, Washington
  • Utah State University – Logan, Utah
  • Wayne State University – Detroit, Michigan

These students, who represent the future workforce in diverse scientific and engineering fields, are following in the footsteps of previous P3 teams. Some of these teams have gone on to start businesses based on ideas and products developed through their P3 project.

For example, Sunn began as a team of students from Cornell University that won a P3 award in 2012 to design and test a hybrid fiber optic lighting system. Sunn now creates energy-efficient LED light fixtures and apps that mimic outdoor light, inside. In 2007, a P3 team from Drexel University developed a bubble column reactor, which used fatty acids gathered from grease-trap waste at wastewater management plants to create biodiesel. This technology formed the foundation for Environmental Fuel Research, LLC.

Projects from this year’s P3 teams include innovative ideas like harnessing solar power to disinfect drinking water and using beetles as a way to degrade Styrofoam waste.

Learn more about the projects of the 2017 Phase I winners. Learn more about the P3 Program.

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