Apr 23, 2012

Students Try for EPA Award with Lifesaving Solar-Powered Water Purifier

The Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University students recently showed their design in Washington, D.C.

A portable solar-powered water purifier designed for use by disaster responders has put a team of student engineers from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in the running for a national award sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The group, led by Embry-Riddle engineering professors Marc Compere, Mark Fugler and Yan Tang, was one of 45 teams selected by the agency from among 150 applicants around the country and given funding to continue with development of its design.

The Embry-Riddle team will bring its purifier to Washington, D.C., April 21 to 23 for final judging in EPA's People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) competition. In Washington, it also will demonstrate it at the National Sustainable Design Expo for a possible grant of $90,000 to take its innovation further.

The Embry-Riddle water purifier is a portable unit powered by foldable solar panels that can be carried in a backpack by one person and deployed in less than 30 minutes using easily understood pictorial instructions. After a disaster, rescue, relief and recovery teams could use the device to convert standing stagnant water into safe drinking water without relying on local power sources.

The system will provide clean water for up to 1,500 people per day and operate entirely from solar power. If deep-cycle batteries are available, it can run for 72 hours without sunlight.

The Embry-Riddle design is based on two stand-alone water purifiers that the students created and installed in Haiti following the earthquake that devastated that country in 2010.