Over these past two months of school, me and Erin have been working on our product Air ReLeaf at Mountaintop. We just finished testing elements of the prototype for removal of particulate matter, carbon monoxide, ozone, and nitrogen dioxide. Our results indicate that, while the plant filter is working, it could be modified to achieve greater efficiency. This is exciting actually, because now we get to design a new filtration system using knowledge from our coursework at Lehigh.
For instance, we want to integrate the activated carbon with microbes that will “renew” the carbon by metabolizing the pollutants adsorbed to it. Microbes are present in the rhizosphere (the soil surrounding a plant’s roots) and utilize certain contaminants as food or for another biological process that produces their energy. At the moment, we have a plant growing in activated carbon, so the next step is to dose its roots with either a fungus or bacteria that can survive in symbiosis with the plant. However, this species of microbes must not completely cover the activated carbon, because it could essentially clog its pores and prevent the contaminants of concern from being adsorbed. Also, this species must be able to reproduce in aqueous environments, because the activated carbon will be in contact with the wet scrubber in this up and coming prototype. In my hazardous waste mgmt. class, we learned about a technology called air stripping. An air stripper is a packed bed where contaminated water trickles down from the top, and clean air is blown in from the bottom. The air-water contact allows for diffusion of the water contaminants into the air, so clean water flows out the bottom and dirty air, which is later treated, flows out the top. It would be interesting to apply this type of filtration mechanisms to the plant filter. As of now, we are brainstorming on one of the many famous mountaintop whiteboards!