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EPA selects students at U.C. Riverside to receive sustainable design funding

Release Date: 10/15/2014
Contact Information: Nahal Mogharabi, 213-244-1815,

LOS ANGELES – Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded a total of about $45,000 in grants to three student teams at the University of California, Riverside to design an innovative way to generate power, and develop a lawn mower and a backyard barbeque that will emit less air pollution. The students competed for grants by submitting research proposals to develop sustainable, alternative methods that address environmental challenges as part of EPA’s People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) program.

“These students are coming up with cutting-edge solutions for the most challenging environmental issues facing California, and the world,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Each year, the projects created by student teams surpass our expectations.”

These three projects will each receive $15,000 grants:

Power Production through the use of Pressure Retarded Osmosis and Solar Distillation Ponds
The proposed project involves the design and construction of a power plant that can generate about 100 W of electricity from salinity gradients and solar distillation. It will use salinity gradients and the heat from solar ponds to create a pressure difference from which energy may be extracted. The salinity gradient between fresh and salt water on opposite sides of a semi-permeable membrane creates an osmotic pressure that forces the fresh water to cross the membrane into the salt water. The increased flow on the salt water side will be used to drive a turbine from which electrical energy will be generated. The proposed method of energy extraction is ideally suited for warm areas of the world located near a body of water with high salinity that also has a fresh-water stream available.

NOx-Out - Selective Catalytic Reduction System for Emission Control of Small Off-Road Engines
The prototype is designed to be an inexpensive catalytic reducer which can be retrofitted to any small off-road engine for the reduction of harmful emissions. The project is focused on lawn mowers, which can emit up to 25% raw unburned fuel and emit large amounts of air pollutants such as carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and particulate matter (PM). The prototype is expected to reduce both pollutants and noise emissions from the lawn mower. The original design showed a significant reduction in emissions from a traditional four-stroke lawn mower exhaust. Once the prototype is fully tested, prototypes will be implemented onto lawn mowers on campus to aid in reaching zero emissions by 2020.

Technology for the Reduction of Particulate Matter Emissions for Residential Propane BBQs
The design will reduce fine particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions with a two-step process, minimizing the amount of grease that is volatilized via direct contact with an open flame, and secondary treatment to filter or catalyze particulate matter created during the cooking process. The primary approach is a preventative method that will remove the majority of grease drippings from the possibility of unwanted flare ups. A slotted and corrugated tray is inserted immediately prior to meat flipping, and removed immediately after. This short contact time prevents the tray from over-heating and volatilizing the collected grease. This collected grease will then drip off into a collection tray. The project hopes to limit the overall air pollution PM emissions from barbecuing and to alleviate some of the acute health hazards that a barbecue pit master can experience from inhalation.

Since 2004, the P3 Program has provided funding to student teams nationwide, committing over $10 million to cutting-edge, sustainable projects designed by university students. This year 42 student teams were chosen to receive grants. Funding for the P3 projects is divided into two phases. In Phase I, student teams submit a proposal for a project, and if they are selected, they compete with other Phase I winners at the National Sustainable Design Expo in Washington, D.C. There, teams compete for Phase II funding of up to $75,000.

More information on the 2014 P3 Phase I Projects:

For more information on the P3 Program: