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May 7, 2014

Purdue students win top research award for 'Biowall' concept

Biowall

A Purdue University student team has won a national contest for designing a "Biowall" of living plants integrated into a building's heating and ventilation system. From left are Lucy Alexander from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and students Yu Xue, Linhan Huang, Daniel Newkirk, Adam Drummond, Andrew Martin, Michelle Bouley and Moriah Yearwood. Also members of the team but not pictured are Olyvia Nola and Caroline Kelemen (Photo provided by EPA)
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A Purdue University student team has won a national contest for designing a "Biowall" of living plants integrated into a building's heating and ventilation system.

The system could improve indoor air quality and reduce energy use by decreasing the need for outdoor ventilation air.

The team last October was selected by the Environmental Protection Agency for a People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) grant. Now the students have received an award to continue a second phase of the project and will be recommended for an additional grant of up to $90,000. The students presented their design in April during the National Sustainable Design Expo in Washington, D.C.

"Implications of the research are profound, considering the fact that the average American spends more than 90 percent of their time indoors where the air is two to five times more polluted than outdoors," said Daniel Newkirk, graduate student lead on the project.

Indoor air is tainted with compounds from an array of household products as well as carbon dioxide from human respiration. Costs related to poor indoor air quality are at least $40 billion annually due to illness and lost productivity in the United States.

The Purdue team was one of seven winners out of 40 teams in the contest. The team also won an award by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers/Youth Council on Sustainable Science and Technology, recognizing the design team's interdisciplinary approach. More information about the Biowall and other EPA P3 projects is available at  http://www.epa.gov/ncer/p3/project_websites/2014/2014awardwinners.html

The program, a competition for designing sustainable technologies, has two phases. For the first phase, teams were awarded a $15,000 grant to develop concepts. Winners receive additional funding for the second phase, aimed at taking designs to real-world applications.

The team members are Newkirk, a graduate student in Purdue's Ecological Sciences and Engineering Program; and undergraduates Michelle Bouley, interior design; Adam Drummond, mechanical engineering technology; Linhan Huang, economics; Caroline Kelemen, agricultural and biological engineering; Andrew Martin, architectural engineering; Olivia Nola, architectural engineering; Yu Xue, biochemistry; and Moriah Yearwood, horticulture.

Their faculty advisers are William J. Hutzel, a professor of mechanical engineering technology; Michael N. Dana, a professor of horticulture and landscape architecture; and Ming Qu, an assistant professor of architectural engineering. 

Writer: Emil Venere, 765-494-4709, venere@purdue.edu  

Sources: William Hutzel, 765-494-7528, hutzelw@purdue.edu 

Daniel W Newkirk, dnewkirk@purdue.edu

Note to Journalists: An EPA media contact is Ryann Williams, 703-347-8115, Williams.Ryann@epa.gov