May 5, 2014

Student-developed water monitor gets EPA support

A proposal to develop a portable, affordable turbidimeter – a tool for measuring water quality – has won a $90,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency’s People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) student design competition.

The turbidimeter project originated with AguaClara, a student engineering team that designs and builds water treatment plants in Honduras and India. Alex Krolick ’14 worked with Chris Kelley, a Johns Hopkins Ph.D. student, on initial designs for the turbidimeter, which won a $15,000 EPA P3 Phase I grant in 2013.

Winners of EPA P3 Phase II grants were announced April 27 at the 10th annual National Sustainable Design Expo in Washington, D.C., where AguaClara and other Cornell teams presented their research.

Another Cornell team received honorable mention for a textile recycling project. They designed a sustainable, zero-waste process for upcycling secondhand clothing in Haiti, where their system is being shared with small secondhand clothing businesses.

A standard turbidimeter is an expensive piece of optical equipment that can cost hundreds of dollars. Krolick and Kelley designed an affordable, accurate turbidimeter that uses off-the-shelf components with the goal of mass production and integration into a scalable data communications network. Their working prototype costs less than $100 to make and transmits data over Bluetooth to an Android smartphone. The device is open source and plans are posted on GitHub under “The Open Turbidimeter Project.”

The project has been transferred to Johns Hopkins University, where the recently awarded EPA grant will allow Kelley to continue developing the technology.