Harnessing wind energy to improve grain safety from aflatoxin contamination

EPA Grant Number: SU839285
Title: Harnessing wind energy to improve grain safety from aflatoxin contamination
Investigators: Adedeji, Akinbode
Institution: University of Kentucky
EPA Project Officer: Page, Angela
Phase: I
Project Period: November 1, 2017 through October 31, 2018
Project Amount: $14,956
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 Awards , Sustainability , P3 Challenge Area - Energy

Description:

We propose a technology development that would allow harnessing of wind energy for improved agricultural products (especially grain) safety through efficient drying in order to curb contamination from aflatoxin, a very potent mycotoxin.

Objective:

Our goal is to design and construct a wind turbine that will allow generation of forced air for use in a solar dryer or local storage bin to increase rate of heat transfer and moisture removal during drying. Aflatoxin has been identified as a major cause of sickness and death in animal and human, which in turn impact agricultural production and subsequently economic growth. This project embraces the basic concepts of EPA P3 Award program by integrating sustainable generation of energy to reduce food contamination risk and increase prosperity of people in aflatoxin prone areas like sub-Saharan Africa. Aflatoxin contamination is a common occurrence in seed crops like cereals and legumes (e.g. corn and peanut) when the conditions (moisture content, relative humidity and temperature) are favorable. This is particularly a major issue in developing countries like sub-Saharan Africa where incidents of aflatoxin contaminated grains have resulted in wasting (stunted growth of children), liver cancer, immune suppression and in some cases death. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that about $1.2 billion is lost in global commerce due to aflatoxins, of which Africa loses the most ($450 million) because of market reject of their grains. Aflatoxin is produced by a group of mold/fungus called Aspergillus, and these molds/fungi grow when seed crops are not properly dried and stored. Solution to high moisture content is quick and efficient drying of grains and this require significant amount of energy. Because of lack of capital for modern drying system, the commonest form of drying is solar drying, which comes in various forms and shape. Solar dryers in themselves increase solar energy harvest but depend mostly on natural convection for heat transfer. Introduction of forced-air in solar dryer will increase drying and moisture removal rates, and subsequently a reduction in incidents of aflatoxin contamination. Our objectives are to design and construct a wind turbine from low cost materials for wind energy channeling for grain drying purpose; to test the efficacy of the system under various weather conditions; and to perform economic analysis to prove the affordability of the system.

Approach:

The interdisciplinary team of students for this project will integrate use of wind turbine made from cheap and affordable materials with variable gear system to harness wind energy for forced-air generation, which will be channeled for drying of agricultural products in a solar dryer and/ grain storage bin. The team will design a prototype which will incorporated into a simple solar dryer design and tested for efficiency here in the US. If we are funded for phase II, the lead student/team member will conduct a trial at various farms located all over Nigeria, his home country in order to prove the effectiveness of the technology for practical field application. So, most of the design considerations at this stage will factor in situation obtainable in Nigeria, which is a good example of a sub-Saharan country needing help in grain safety assurance.

Expected Results:

Our output will be a prototype wind turbine system that can be incorporated into a lab scale dryer or small size storage bin for forced convective air drying of agricultural products, especially seed crops like grains. The direct impact of the project is anticipated to lead to higher drying rate which will shorten the time required to dry grains under the most unfavorable conditions, and in turn a significant reduction in aflatoxin contamination in seed crops during the supply chain and storage. Through this sustainable technology development, we anticipate an increased market reach of grain for farmers through maximum return from high quality and safe grains sold locally and internationally, which in turn can help bridge economic gap among rain farmers in developing countries. This project will provide learning opportunity for University of Kentucky students involved on the subject of sustainability, appropriate green engineering design and solution to food and energy need.

Supplemental Keywords:

Wind, Green Energy, Aflatoxin, Grains, Forced Air, Drying

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final