Design of a Solar Powered Water Purification System Utilizing Biomimetic Photocatalytic Nanocomposite Materials

EPA Grant Number: SU835996
Title: Design of a Solar Powered Water Purification System Utilizing Biomimetic Photocatalytic Nanocomposite Materials
Investigators: Keleher, Jason
Institution: Lewis University
EPA Project Officer: Page, Angela
Phase: I
Project Period: September 1, 2015 through August 31, 2016
Project Amount: $13,685
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2015) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Awards , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , Sustainability , P3 Challenge Area - Water


The proposed project will design a solution for the lack of access to clean water and help create a sustainable water supply to improve the overall quality of life in developing nations across the world. The proposed water purification system will be able to improve the water quality through natural means that ultimately will educate and improve the life of the people in these nations. This project will also have a profound impact on the university level. Most undergraduate programs focus on teaching the rudiments of their discipline, but never incorporate how their skills can serve humanity. Additionally, this project can then be used to implement self-sustainability, create independence, and generate new component to the local/global economy.


The basis of this project includes the development of a solar capture photovoltaic nanocomposite (PV) to power a pump coupled with a solar activated water purification nanocomposite (WP). The project is unique in that it uses solar energy to power a self-sufficient water purification system. The solar capture photovoltaic cell is composed of an inexpensive, biodegradable polymer in which semiconducting nanoparticles are embedded. This composition creates a conductive nanocomposite that uses solar energy to create enough charge and voltage to power a small pump. This pump is used to transport the contaminated water through the WP filter. The WP filter is composed of biomimetic building blocks (such as cellulose) coupled with photo-catalytic antimicrobial nanoparticles to aid in pollutant degradation and effective elimination of harmful bacterial species in water. The innovative component to the WP filter is twofold. Firstly, the filter is powered solely by solar energy, resulting in no outside source of electricity being needed. The second innovative component is the method of purification. Many conventional filters simply capture the pollutant, but the design proposed chemically degrades the pollutants to carbon dioxide, water, and mineral acids. The specific goal of this project is to develop a working prototype of the solar activated water purification system.

Expected Results:

The WP system will be tested by measuring the rates of degradation of various model pollutants, including organic dyes and pesticides, in a simulated sunlight environment. Initial testing has shown chemical degradation of the pollutants, but the rate of reaction is impaired in the visible light region due to ineffective photon capture capacity of the current technology. After the proposed modification, significant increases in the efficiency of the nanocomposite will be realized. Antimicrobial efficiency (AME) tests will also be conducted on the various filter media to measure their ability to cause lysis in various bacteria, such as E. Coli and S. Aureus. Initial synthesis of the PV system showed voltage and current, but now enough to power a small pump. Modifications with the dispersion, conductive polymer matrix, and band gap will help increase the ability to match the voltage and current needed. The PV system will also be tested in the simulated sunlight environment.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 6 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Biomimietic, Water Filtration, solar, nanotechnology, polymer, photocatalytic, photovoltaic, nanocomposite

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report