Low-cost Household Biochar Water Filter for Lead Removal

EPA Grant Number: SU839266
Title: Low-cost Household Biochar Water Filter for Lead Removal
Investigators: Kumar, Sandeep
Institution: Old Dominion University
EPA Project Officer: Page, Angela
Phase: I
Project Period: January 1, 2018 through December 31, 2018
Project Amount: $14,999
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2017) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: P3 Challenge Area - Water , Sustainability , P3 Awards


Biochar can be a cost effective substitute to activated carbon in lead adsorption because of its porous structure, irregular surface, high surface to volume ratio and presence of oxygenated functional group. We propose to design a household water filter that uses biochar as an adsorbent for removing lead from drinking water. The proposed filter integrates the conventional filter and adsorption potential of biochar in order to create a system that can eliminate lead from supplied water. It will significantly decrease the cost for abatement of lead pollution. In addition, the proposed filter uses only biochar (a renewable material) for filtration and production of biochar is a relatively simple process. Furthermore, this project will provide a good opportunity for educating the public, especially school students in local community. We plan to attend and present our results in the regional science fairs. We specifically target annual Tidewater Science & Engineering Fair, which welcomes all the K-12 students from within the Hampton Roads area.


There are several intellectual merits (based on our several prior published studies) of the proposed filter. First, the proposed filter reduces the cost and makes it a more effective approach since biochar is significantly cheaper and has higher cation exchange capacity (CEC) than activated carbon in lead removal. Second, the proposed filter is an easy-to-use system that works in residential faucet water flow and requires no professional help for the installation. Third, the proposed filter is effective in natural water condition and does not require any pH adjustment.


Heavy metal contamination in drinking water is a growing concern due to its severe health effect in humans. Conventional processes like use of activated carbon for the adsorption of metals i. e., lead has always been an expensive method which has precluded its ubiquitous use. We propose to design and develop a low-cost household water filter using biochar to introduce a user-friendly cost effective system for removing lead from drinking water.

Expected Results:

The expected deliverables of the proposed filter consists of three stages. In stage one, theoretical investigation will be performed on the proposed filter. The research will focus on breakthrough point calculation, material selection, product design, and efficiency evaluation. In stage two, the research team will build a prototype of the filter to evaluate the practical lead removal performance of the proposed concept. The third stage is to demonstrate the potentiality of the prototype filter for successful elimination from lead contaminated drinking water.

Supplemental Keywords:

human health, toxics, pollution prevention, drinking water treatment technologies, cost-benefit

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final