Cornell iGEM

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Future Applications

Environmental Remediation

Our metal sequestration system can be scaled up to filter heavy metals from large, contaminated bodies of water (such as Onondaga Lake). The fiber reactor and filtration systems would be fitted inside a durable and buoyant casing, creating a self-sustaining, filtering buoy. A strong pump would suction contaminated water through intake pipes on the belly of the buoy and propel it through the filter. The clean water would then be expelled from the underside of the buoy, disrupting the surface of the water as little as possible. A sixteen square-foot solar panel would provide enough power to run the system and send out hourly updates to maintenance workers. When the filter becomes oversaturated with metals, the buoy would send a notification to workers, who could cruise out to the buoy and replace the modified cells.

Home Use

We want to extend and diversify the function of our heavy metal filtration system. One option is to scale it down for household applications. One potential home use application is a faucet-attached filter for potable water. It would function much like existing solutions that use activated carbon but would instead be targeted at regions at a greater risk for heavy metal contamination. Our design for this is much simpler than the one for environmental deployment. The prefilter, pump, and its supporting electrical system can all be eliminated because a home’s water supply already provides the necessary pressure and consistency. The only components are the hollow fiber reactor and a small reservoir to allow for more time for full sequestration of ions. The reactor itself has been downsized due to lower flow requirements and will fit into a user-replaceable cartridge.

Another possible small scale utilization of the heavy metal filtration system is as a filter attachment for a garden hose. The attachment could possibly serve to filter out heavy metals from water before it reenters the ground or is taken up by plants. There are design problems to consider for this model. Because hollow fiber reactors work best when flow is relatively slow, the water would have to be going slow enough to effectively filter out heavy metals while also going fast enough for an effective spray out the garden hose nozzle. It also can’t be so fast that the fibers are destroyed. The water flowing through the hose is can be assumed to be from tap or well water so large particles are not an issue and the large prefilter can be removed. The force of the water through the hose allows for the elimination of most of our original filtration design, including the wiring, piping, and power sources.

Industrial Scale Treatment

Heavy metal filtration can be used in a variety of industrial processes, such as sewage filtration and water treatment at reservoirs. This industrial size filtration system is a modular unit that can be incorporated in any imaginable filtration process. It was designed in mind for a sewage treatment facility, where it would ideally be placed before the biological aerated filters. For traditional water filtering, such as in a reservoir, this industrial size filtration system can be put towards the beginning of the filtration process; this ensures that those cells which somehow do find their way out of the filter will still get caught at some point during the rest of the filtration process. Another possible application of this filtration system would be to use it as an alternative to smaller filters that could be placed directly on the outlet pipes of factories producing waste containing heavy metals. The advantage of using this industrial size filters as opposed to smaller filters would be that there would be fewer filters overall to maintain, and maintenance would be easier because the filter system would be located indoors, within the factory, as opposed to outdoors in the outlet pipes.