Development of 3D-printed surfaces for ultra-high surface area trickling biofilters for water pollution remediation

EPA Grant Number: SU836122
Title: Development of 3D-printed surfaces for ultra-high surface area trickling biofilters for water pollution remediation
Investigators: Carrano, Andres
Institution: Auburn University
EPA Project Officer: Sergeant, Anne
Phase: I
Project Period: September 1, 2015 through August 31, 2016
Project Amount: $14,903
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 Challenge Area - Water , P3 Awards , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , Sustainability


The goal of this project is to design, develop and evaluate new media for biofiltration of water by using complex shapes and geometries achieved with 3D printing to grow algae colonies.


The following steps will be conducted:

  • field data collection on natural substrata (colonized rock samples from rivers in Eastern Alabama
  • Reverse metrology of natural substrata: to understand and document the rock surface features that provide the best habitat for algae
  • Surface computer modeling to design features such as modularity, interlocking, ease of harvesting, and substrata fastening.
  • Fabrication of surfaces with additive manufacturing (3D printers)
  • Design and build of experimental apparatus: clear cylinders irradiated with grow lights from the outside and that will be filled with the media produced in the 3D printers.
  • Testing and experimentation: The experiment will be conducted over 28 days and replicated twice for each condition. These biofilters will be placed in a wet lab and seeded with a periphytic community from a local stream for colony initiation.
  • Sample Analysis: the media will be removed from the cylinders every 7 days (until day 28) and imaged at multiple magnifications. At the final (28-day) removal, the biofilm will be subsampled in three locations for multiple analyses.
  • Economic analysis: yield data from the experimentation as well as the expenses and operational costs of the biofilters (projected into an industrial scale) to analyze breakeven points and returns on investment (ROI).

Expected Results:

Expected Outputs:

  • A set of ultra-high surface area designs of filtration media that is highly conducive to mixed periphyton colonization and that present high biomass density
  • A traveling prototype of a biofilter that will be display in the 2016 Expo and also for demonstration in local schools.
  • A commercial feasibility study showing the productivity (yields) and economics of these designs at a large/industrial scale.

Expected Outcomes:

  • Increase on the efficiency of biofilter systems
  • Increased capacity of water treatment systems
  • Increased use of more sustainable filter principles (combined periphyton and bacterial biofilm communities)
  • Potential development of highly efficient, portable trickling filters that can be deployed in rural areas.

Supplemental Keywords:

Additive manufacturing, 3D printing, water filtering, algal colonization, periphyton.

P3 Phase II:

Development of 3D-printed surfaces for ultra-high surface area biofilters for water pollution remediation