At the USA Science and Engineering Festival April 26-27 in Washington, D.C., the award-winning Radford University interdisciplinary team of science students presented their work on a sustainable water purification project during the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's People, Prosperity and Planet (P3) Sustainable Design session.
Led by Chemistry Professors Cindy Burkhardt and Francis Webster, the RU team includes geology, biology and chemistry students. They received an EPA grant last year to develop their research and work has been ongoing this academic year.
"The team did a fantastic job and the professional manner in which they presented their work to hundreds of students, faculty, kids and parents speaks well of them and RU," said Webster.
The students - Cameron Baumgardner, Angela Gerard, Dennis Godward, Spencer Hayes, Anthony Rhea, Gavin Smith, Matt Sublett and Bekah Webster – are researching and developing a sustainable technology - an inexpensive, absorbent material, or a sugar-based carbon nanoparticle, that will improve existing sand filtration technology- to protect both human health and the environment while promoting economic development.
"We looked at ways to pull contaminants out of the water and we turned to modifying one of the most natural filter materials used in the world, sand," said Dennis Godward, a Spring 2014 chemistry graduate. "Using sand coated with carbon nanoparticles, we were able to remove all the heavy metal pollutants that we studied: cadmium, chromium copper and lead at removal levels nearing 100 percent."
Bekah Webster, another '14 chemistry graduate, spent much of her time on the team refining the sand-coating process. "My main role this year has been to optimize the synthesis of carbon/iron nanoparticles-coated sand to serve as an absorbent for arsenic," she said.