EPA P3 Program illiustration
The EPA P3 program advances innovative and sustainable technology-based projects through collaborations across STEM disciplines.
Courtesy EPA

A student team from The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) has won $99,998 in research grant funding from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop a low-cost household water filter that removes per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from drinking water. This project will help promote clean drinking water supplies, particularly in small, rural, Tribal and disadvantaged communities. The grant is part of the EPA’s People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) Program, a competition open to teams of university students working to design innovative solutions for a sustainable future.

PFAS are a group of chemicals used to make fluoropolymer coatings found in many consumer products, including clothing, furniture, adhesives, food packaging, heat-resistant non-stick cooking surfaces and the insulation of electrical wire. Called ‘forever chemicals,’ they do not break down in the environment, can move through soils and contaminate drinking water sources and build up in fish and wildlife.

“PFAS and other emerging contaminants in drinking water are a challenge for communities across the Southeast region and beyond,” says Acting EPA Region 4 Administrator, Jeaneanne Gettle. “We congratulate the UAH student team on their project. This promising research supports our goal of making sure everyone — including our most vulnerable populations — can access clean, safe drinking water.”

Dr. Tingting Wu, an associate professor of Environmental Engineering, is the Principle Investigator for the award-winning proposal. UAH team members include Sepideh Mansoori and Amir Ahmadi Zahrani, two Ph.D. students supervised by Dr. Wu.

“These students are leading the way when it comes to developing cutting-edge research to address PFAS, which is a top priority for our Agency and country,” says Chris Frey, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “I’m excited to see how EPA’s P3 funding can support this potential solution to help ensure clean drinking water, especially among our disadvantaged communities.”

The funding will support students from UAH, a part of the University of Alabama System, as they study the use of a hybrid bio-based adsorbent technology for the point-of-use removal of PFAS in homes and offices. Phase I of the program serves as a proof of concept, where teams are awarded a one-year grant of up to $25,000 to develop their idea. The teams are then eligible to compete for a Phase II grant of up to $100,000 to implement their design in a real-world setting. The winning project from the UAH team is one of five total P3 Phase II awards that were made under the same funding announcement.