Application of Foam Filtration to Water Treatment for Rapid Emergency Response

EPA Grant Number: SU835715
Title: Application of Foam Filtration to Water Treatment for Rapid Emergency Response
Investigators: Weber-Shirk, Monroe , Lion, Leonard William
Current Investigators: Weber-Shirk, Monroe , Helbling, Damian E , Leeuwen, Lotta Van , Lion, Leonard William , Hutchinston, Alena , Peters, Alicia , Cashon, Andrea , Caglioni, Caroline , Keller, Ethan , Chu, Kristin , Hinkley, Marlana , Yu., Tianchen , Pietsch, Valerie
Institution: Cornell University
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2014 through August 14, 2015
Project Amount: $14,901
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2014) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Safe and Sustainable Water Resources , P3 Awards , Sustainable and Healthy Communities


A portable, high-rate, inexpensive water treatment unit could speed up response time and reduce transportation and setup costs and thus facilitate rapid provision of safe drinking water after an emergency. The filtration unit could also make communities more self-reliant, as its design criteria include the ability to be operated, maintained, and repaired by members of the community. A water filtration unit that costs less and is more portable could reach a greater number of people more quickly than current approaches. This solution is intended to displace approaches to obtaining drinking water that require energy or have negative environmental impacts, such as membrane filtration, boiling water and use of bottled water.


Our plan is to design a community-sized foam filtration water treatment system. Foam is a novel filtration medium that demonstrates advantages over sand filters in terms of porosity and density, and over membrane filters in terms of energy required. The proposed unit will be packaged as a kit that can be easily transported to areas that have been affected by disaster situations.


The proposed research will be conducted by students in Cornell University’s AguaClara program as part of our RIDE innovation system. Student teams collaborate with partner organizations to Research, Invent, and Design improved water treatment technologies and then to Empower implementation partners to build the facilities and assist communities with their maintenance and operation. There are currently 8 municipalities in Honduras with AguaClara water treatment plants. There are 5 villages in India that are building AguaClara filtration and disinfection systems and an additional 15 villages in India are installing AguaClara disinfection systems.

Expected Results:

The primary outcome of this project is a design for a community-scale, low cost, gravity powered, foam filtration water treatment unit. A secondary result will be experimental data on the properties of foam as a filter medium used over time.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 1 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Reticulated foam filtration, Disaster recovery, Portable water treatment, Small community water treatment, Open source

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report