Congratulations to 2017 Stockholm Junior Water Prize Winners!

Every year, high school science students from around the country compete in WEF’s Stockholm Junior Water Prize, which aims to increase students’ interest in water-related issues and research and to raise awareness about global water challenges. The winners from around the country go on to compete in the national competition, which this year is June 16-17 at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Students create projects aimed at improving of water quality, water resources management, water protection, and drinking water and wastewater treatment. PNCWA is thrilled to announce the regional winners: Bryan To (Oregon), Apoorv Khandelwal (Washington) and Ari Carter (Idaho).

Bryan To of Portland, Oregon, says, “It felt humbling to have my research be recognized and I'm so grateful for the opportunity.” Bryan says he wants to keep working on his project, which deals with water contamination, even after the competition is over. “There are so many ideas that I want to attempt: variables I wish to tweak to further observe the potential of my plant for absorbing copper; a design I could create that implements my project to prevent contamination in our water systems. In the future, I want to  integrate my research skills to give back to the community and to further improve and save our precious Earth.”

Read below for more on our prize winners and their projects.  

Bryan To, Oregon

Project: Reactions of Salvinia to Copper Contamination: Death or Absorption? 

High School: Oregon Episcopal School, Portland, Oregon

Science Teacher: Peter Langley

Abstract: Water contamination by heavy metals, such as copper, continues to be a problem as the metals refuse to degrade, polluting their surroundings. Salvinia, an aquatic fern, could be utilized through its ability to survive in heavy-metal-concentrated environments. It was hypothesized that Salvinia would be effective in the removal of copper contamination, as the copper from the water would decrease and be absorbed into the plant. For a week, Salvinia plants were placed in water with copper concentrations over five times the regulated EPA amount for drinking water. An ICP-MS instrument calculated the copper concentrations in the plant and water samples, finding a 1400% ppm increase of copper concentration inside the Salvinia and a 75% ppm decrease in the water. There was significant difference between the 0 ppm group and (i) 6.5 ppm [p=.0137] and (ii) 10.4ppm groups [p=.0004]. Salvinia can potentially remediate copper contamination even before main bodies of water are affected. In the future, copper could be isolated into remediation ponds, extracted using Salvinia, and then recycled by processing the plants.


Apoorv Khandelwal, Washington 

Project: Molecular Dynamics Simulation and Experimental Fabrication of Nanoporous Graphene Membranes for Optimal Water Permeability in Reverse Osmosis Desalination

High School: Tesla STEM, Redmond, Washington

Science Teacher: Kate Allender

Abstract: Nanoporous graphene membranes have the potential to solve the problem of a dwindling supply of fresh water that affects nearly half the world’s population by enabling low-cost, efficient desalination of seawater. Modern reverse osmosis desalination plants are expensive, environmentally disruptive and consume large amounts of energy. Due to their single-atom-thickness, these membranes have demonstrated to be highly permeable. LAMMPS molecular dynamics simulation software was utilized on a 100,000 core-hour supercomputer allocation to model nanoscale water filtration across nanoporous graphene for thirty 10 nanosecond trials. Optimal water permeability of these membranes was determined to be 125 L cm-2 d-1 MPa-1 at a 6.2% porosity for adequate mechanical stability in reverse osmosis by variation of five porosities and hydrogen or hydroxyl functional pore linings. This permeability is 5,180 times greater than common thin-film and 20 times greater than ultrafiltration membranes. Nanopores were experimentally fabricated in 45 samples of mono- and bilayer graphene sheets, after preparation of membranes by graphene transfer onto three substrates and defect-sealing via atomic layer deposition and interfacial polymerization. Gallium ion bombardment with oxidative etching and oxygen plasma etching were respectively used to create 0.4 nm and 1 nm pores at densities between 1012 and 1013 pores per square centimeter. Samples were produced at up to 20 square centimeters in area and were characterized by transmission and scanning electron microscopy, as well as Raman and x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. Three water transport measurements were conducted per sample and demonstrated membrane permeability of up to 50 L cm-2 d-1 MPa-1, corroborating theory at that density by 92%.


Ari Carter, Idaho 

Project: SiNK

High School: Moscow High School, Moscow, Idaho

Science Teacher: Pat Blount

Abstract: The average American wastes five gallons of water when they leave the faucet on while brushing their teeth. The typical campaign to fix this issue is telling people not to leave the faucet on, but habits are not easily changed. In order to circumvent this, I decided to make a sensing sink, like those in airports and hotel lobbies, but for commercial use in private homes. The wide implementation of this kind of faucet in homes would cut down on water waste tremendously, but first they must be made appealing to the consumer. In order to make them appealing, I identified three main issues with automatic faucets in public places: they are unresponsive, the temperature cannot be changed easily, and the water pressure cannot be changed easily. For SiNK, these issues were corrected with an intuitive control system; the classic sink design was kept, but instead of knobs controlling hot and cold water, one controls temperature and one controls pressure. A sensor in the faucet head is triggered by motion underneath it, instead of the classic sensor built into the back of the sink’s neck. Ultimately, my design criteria were met, and although they could easily be improved, this project did provide proof of concept for a consumer-friendly automatic faucet.

Learn more about the Stockholm Junior Water Prize here.  

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