Keratin-based Adsorbent for Drinking Water Filtration

EPA Grant Number: SU836769
Title: Keratin-based Adsorbent for Drinking Water Filtration
Investigators: Almquist, Catherine B
Institution: Miami University - Oxford
EPA Project Officer: Sergeant, Anne
Phase: I
Project Period: September 1, 2016 through August 31, 2017
Project Amount: $13,939
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2016) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Sustainability , P3 Awards , P3 Challenge Area - Water

Description:

Design, construct, and demonstrate a drinking water purification process that couples sand filtration with the natural protein keratin, which will act as an adsorbent for removing heavy metals from water.

Objective:

We propose to design, construct, and demonstrate a drinking water purification process that couples sand filtration with the natural protein, keratin, which will act as an adsorbent for removing heavy metals from water. Keratin is a protein that occurs naturally, for example, in skin, hair, nails, hooves, horns, and bird feathers. The adsorption capacity of keratin for heavy metals is dependent upon many factors, including the surface area of the keratin-based material; a higher surface area material results in higher adsorption capacities for heavy metals. Therefore, we will investigate the use of keratin in sand beds using two methods: 1) as an additive to water to bind with the heavy metals before the sand filter, and the aggregates will be removed from water in the sand filter, and 2) as a novel adsorbent, a keratin-clay aerogel, which will be a highly porous structured material that can be added to the sand filters as a separate adsorbent layer in the filtration system. 

Our project goal is to design a system that can treat 20 L /day of water contaminated with heavy metals. The heavy metals that we will focus on are lead (Pb), arsenic (As), and Cadmium (Cd). These metals are detrimental to human health at very low concentrations. In the United States, the maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for these compounds in drinking water are 10 ug As/L, 5 ug Cd/L, and 15 ug As/L. Our goal, then, for our water treatment system will be to reduce the concentrations of these compounds from 1000 ug/L to levels below their respective MCLs.

Approach:

The approach to this project is to complete 5 key tasks:

  1. Construct and characterize a slow sand bed filter that will be used to demonstrate the water filtration system.
  2. Synthesize the keratin-based adsorbents
  3. Measure adsorption isotherms for metal ions on keratin adsorbents
  4. Demonstrate the sand filter using the two methods of introducing keratin-based adsorbents into the filtration system
  5. Conduct a comprehensive technical and economic assessment of the filtration system

Expected Results:

Our expected outcomes are: 1) the design, construction, and assesment of a water filtration system that combines sand filtration with keratin-based adsorbents for removing heavy metals; 2) an economic and technical feasibility assessment for the use of our system in developing regions of the world.

Supplemental Keywords:

sand filtration, keratin, adsorption, heavy metals;