researchers win first phase of $10 million Everglades clean water science prize
MOSCOW, Idaho —A University of Idaho
research team has won the first phase of a scientific challenge to save the
Florida Everglades and other freshwater resources facing critical pollution
researchers of Team blueXgreen created a proposal to adapt its new wastewater
treatment technology that removes phosphorus and nitrogen. The proposal won The
Everglades Foundation’s opening phase of the George Barley Water Prize — a
four-year, $10 million competition. There were 61 international teams in the
global competition’s first phase.
chemist Greg Moller, soil scientist Daniel Strawn and engineer Martin Baker,
all of UI’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, submitted the winning
proposal. It was based on the UI-developed N-E-W Tech water treatment process
that can reduce phosphorus concentrations in wastewater to far below regulatory
are pleased to win the first round,” Moller said. “We are confident that our process
offers a new, sustainable path forward in dealing with a serious pollution
problem that leads to major environmental and human health problems across the
U.S. and around the world.”
UI researchers were awarded $487,000 in grants in 2015 from the Idaho Global
Entrepreneurial Mission (IGEM) to develop a prototype of the process on a
high-tech trailer. Through testing on campus, at the UI research dairy and at
Moscow’s and Troy’s water treatment plants, the team has conducted large-scale
trials with promising results.
wastewater treatment company based in the United Kingdom has signed an option
to license the technology for the European Union, and a U.S. company is
currently reviewing licensing opportunities. Their process expands the focus of
earlier UI-patented water treatment technologies developed by Moller that are
in use in Korea, England and the U.S.
foundation announced the winners of the opening phases during an event today,
Dec. 7, on Biscayne Bay in Miami.
UI team won $5,000 for the first phase, which focused on ideas, and qualified
the UI team’s entry for the next round and a $25,000 prize.
Everglades Foundation’s George Barley Water Prize seeks a solution to the
pollution that promotes algae growth in the Everglades, which damages fish and
wildlife there and along Florida’s coast. Last summer Florida officials
declared states of emergency in four counties because of the toxic goo.
N-E-W Tech process adds biochar — tiny bits of activated charcoal — to
wastewater to capture nitrogen and phosphorus, which are both valuable
agricultural fertilizers. The team is working with Colorado-based biochar
manufacturer CoolPlanet to enhance the product’s fertilizer value. The UI
process also adds ozone to break down toxic compounds and disease agents,
including viruses and bacteria.
wastewater treatment binds the charcoal with the soil, enhancing its fertility
and making the process climate-friendly and carbon-negative, Moller said.
competition includes four stages, beginning with the idea phase. Next up for
the teams is laboratory and pilot-scale testing. The contest concludes with the
construction of a large-scale plant in Florida. The ultimate winner is
scheduled to be chosen in late 2020.
international award recognizes UI researchers’ efforts to make a difference in
Idaho, the nation and the world through technology development,” said Janet
Nelson, UI’s vice president for research and economic development. “Team
blueXgreen’s dedication to innovation will benefit them not only as this
competition goes forward, but also as they continue to expand the possibilities
for reducing pollution using N-E-W Tech.”
UI research team’s entry includes a video on the Barley Prize website, www.barleyprize.com,
University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is one of only 72 land-grant research
universities in the United States. From its residential campus in Moscow, UI
serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Coeur d’Alene, Boise,
Idaho Falls and Twin Falls, and Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to more
than 11,000 students statewide, UI is a leader in student-centered learning and
excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities,
and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. UI competes in the
Big Sky Conference and Sun Belt Conference. Learn more at www.uidaho.edu.