EPA Awards Grant to Virginia Tech Student Team for Innovative Technology Project
PHILADELPHIA (Jan. 28, 2020) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded a $25,000 grant to Virginia Tech, today through its People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) program. The funding is part of approximately $800,000 awarded to 32 student teams nationally to develop and demonstrate projects that help address environmental and public health challenges.
“If we want to ensure and continue our mission to protect human health and the environment, we have to prepare for it now by investing in our future. Last month, and throughout all of 2020, the EPA celebrated its 50th anniversary, and we want to highlight ways the agency supports our upcoming environmental leaders,” said Diana Esher, Acting EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator. “The P3 program helps foster environmental education among students to support the next generation of scientists and engineers working to tackle some of today’s most pressing environmental issues.
The goal of Virginia Tech’s project is to microbially convert food waste into renewable organic acids. Nearly 40% of food in the U.S. ends up as the solid waste equivalent of 133 million metric tons. Traditional options for food waste treatments such as landfilling cause air and water pollution. This project aims to mitigate the high costs of this process by converting food waste into value-added, renewable, and environment-friendly chemicals.
“Food waste handling and rare earth production are two essential issues that need to be resolved in modern society. In this project, we will convert food waste into renewable, environmental-friendly chemicals, which will be used for rare earth recovery from both rare earth ores and secondary rare earth sources, such as coal refuse,” said Dr. Wencai Zhang, Assistant Professor of Mining and Minerals Engineering at Virginia Tech. “Our project has the potential to reduce the high costs and environmental impacts of traditional food waste treatment, while promoting the establishment of secure domestic rare earth supply chains.”
This year’s winners are addressing a variety of research topics including efforts to reduce microplastics waste, creating innovative and solar-driven nanomaterials, building a stand-alone water treatment system that can provide potable water for indoor use in single family homes, and removing PFAS (polyfluoroalkyl substances) from water using liquid extractions. These teams are also eligible to compete for a Phase II grant of up to $100,000 to further implement their design in a real-world setting.
Phase I grantees from the EPA Mid-Atlantic Region include student teams from the following universities:
- Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pa.
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) Sensors for ppb (parts per billion)-Level Detection and Speciation
- Marshall University, Huntington, W.Va.
- Nanoclay Reinforced Recycled HDPE (high-density polyethylene) to Replace PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) and PE (Polyethylene) Water Pipe Materials
- Temple University, Philadelphia, Pa.
- Biochar Filter for Philadelphia Water Lead (Pb) Removal
- Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), Blacksburg, Va.
- Rare Earth Elements Recovery Using Food Waste
To learn more about the P3 Phase I winners, visit: https://cfpub.epa.gov/ncer_abstracts/index.cfm/fuseaction/recipients.display/rfa_id/655/records_per_page/ALL
The P3 program is a two-phase research grants program that challenges students to research, develop and design innovative projects addressing environmental and public health challenges. Phase I serves as a “proof of concept,” where teams are awarded (up to) a $25,000 grant to develop their idea and showcase their research in the spring at EPA’s National Student Design Expo. These teams are then eligible to compete for a Phase II grant of up to $100,000 to implement their design.
For more information on the P3 Program, visit: https://www.epa.gov/P3
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