Four Finalists to Compete in Entrepreneurial Impact Competition

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Following an open call for entries from students in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, four finalists were selected for the final round of the first annual Entrepreneurial Impact Competition on Friday, March 19th at 4:30 p.m.

During the two-hour virtual competition, the finalists will give a five-minute verbal pitch of their project to the expert judges and a live audience, followed by up to 10 minutes of Q&A. After all the presentations are complete, the judges will deliberate and then identify the top two proposals that will win the $5,000 prizes sponsored by two generous donors, Bill Higginbotham and the Zeitlin Family.

Read more about the finalists below and click here to register for the Entrepreneurial Impact Competition.

Volta Pure members Mourin Jarin, Jianfeng Zhou and Nissim Gore-Datar

Volta Pure
Nissim Gore-Datar, Mourin Jarin, and Jianfeng Zhou

More than 800 million people worldwide lack consistent access to clean drinking water. This is due to the high cost of treatment plants, difficulties transporting chemicals, and the aftermath of carcinogenic disinfection by-products. VoltaPure’s novel co-axial electrode copper ionization cell enables superior water disinfection while producing a very low and safe effluent copper concentration. The underlying mechanism behind the center electrode is locally enhanced electric field treatment, which exploits the lighting rod effect by distributing a low voltage to the modified electrode surface, significantly enhancing electric field exposure to pathogens. VoltaPure’s energy-efficient, chlorine-free technology can be integrated into point-of-use water disinfection for remote areas, developing communities and disaster regions without central water disinfection facilities. As the technology scales, it can be retrofitted into existing distribution systems to provide antimicrobial properties while eliminating the need for chlorination, offering clean drinking water without harmful disinfection by-products.

BioBuilt founder John Huntoon

John Huntoon

John Huntoon collaborated with Georgia Tech faculty to develop a ground anchor inspired by the architecture and load transfer efficiency of plant roots. Ground anchors, used in many retaining walls and building foundations, are underground structures that resist forces attempting to pull the anchor from the ground by transferring those forces to the surrounding soil. Such applied forces are called pullout loads. The roots of certain plant species anchor the organism in the soil much more efficiently than any ground anchors currently used in civil infrastructure, making them a source of inspiration for ground anchor improvements. Huntoon and his team at Georgia Tech developed a prototype called the Root-Inspired Ground Anchor, or RIGA. This anchor consists of three primary components: a stressing element, identical to the steel cables or bars used in conventional ground anchors; an expansive root mechanism, which is initially cylindrical but expands during installation to mimic the geometry of fibrous plant roots; and cement grout, which gives the systems stiffness and protects its components from corrosion. The expansive root mechanism resists pullout loads more efficiently than the cylindrical external interface of a conventional ground anchor.

Culturea members Eil Berger, Abigial Cohen, Thomas Igou and Elliot Reid

Eli Berger, Abigail Cohen, Thomas Igou and Elliot Reid

Water and nutrient management are top challenges in the United States, where food is grown using fertilizer derived from finite, energy-intensive nutrients and surface freshwater, shifting natural cycles out of balance. Nationally, more than 35 percent of municipal energy budgets are spent producing, distributing and treating water, where little recycling occurs. As this paradigm expands into emerging markets, strain on ecosystems will deepen, and agricultural resource demand will outpace reserve supplies. Rather than maintaining the status-quo, Cultúrea implements technologies to enable a more circular approach to water and nutrient management that will preserve precious resources, leapfrog linear consumption, and jump straight into a “circular water and nutrient economy.” Cultúrea will build and operate anaerobic-anoxic-oxic membrane bioreactor systems for onsite wastewater treatment and resource recovery. The proposed system consists of three parts: domestic wastewater and rainwater capture; treatment modules; and a resource reclamation system. While conventional treatment systems spend energy to oxidize nutrients only to release them to the environment, Cultúrea’s system produces bioenergy used for heating, cooking and power, reusable water free from pathogen risks, and high-quality phosphorus-enriched agricultural soil amendment to return nutrition to depleted soils. Further, Cultúrea’s system is highly efficient and modular, resulting in feasible implementation in commercial buildings, apartment complexes, schools and other facilities.

River Recon members Matthew Falcone, Erin Kowalsky, Timothy Purvis and Kaylyn Sinisgalli

River Recon
Matthew Falcone, Erin Kowalsky, Timothy Purvis, and Kaylyn Sinisgalli

Plastic waste breaks up into microscopic pieces that are harmful to both the environment and human health. The River Recon team set out to create detection device because there are currently no effective methods for quantifying microplastics in water—making it difficult to understand the full extent of this emerging environmental contaminant. Extensive physical sampling, preparation, and analysis can take days to generate useful data, while expensive laboratory equipment and specialized services limit the capacity to analyze environmental microplastics. To overcome these barrier, River Recon designed a sensor to swiftly, inexpensively, and efficiently identify microplastics in continuous streams of water. The sensing device works by using fluorescence, and in some cases light distortion, of plastic polymers at certain wavelengths to distinguish microplastics from soils and other interferences in water. The device works by passing water samples into a light-tight testing chamber, where it is stored in a glass tube. Light sources of different wavelengths turn on and off sequentially, and a camera takes an image of the sample's response to each wavelength of light. The images are compiled and passed into a machine learning algorithm, which predicts which regions contain microplastics.