This year our team is looking at phosphorus contamination in water sources. To do so, we are engineering a strain of E. coli to express genes which uptake and store phosphorus so as to prevent toxic algal growth in lakes and streams. By focusing on the versatility of our housing for these bacteria we hope to provide a platform for further study and application in agriculture, the environment, and resource reclamation.
Why Clean Water?
While brainstorming for our 2016 project, we decided that we wanted to pursue a project that was specific enough to be applicable to the needs of our community, yet broad enough in scope so as to benefit the global community as a whole. The issues that caught our attention and met these criteria was the domestic and agricultural misuse of phosphorus.
To give more detail, phosphorus is a nonrenewable resource essential in agriculture, yet projections estimate that global phosphorus could be all but depleted in 30-40 years. Still, excess phosphorus in lakes causes algae growth that harms the ecosystem. It is our belief that wastewater treatment is a key place to prevent phosphorus from entering lakes while also allowing the phosphorus to be harvested for further use.
What We Hope to Accomplish
Our ultimate dream is to develop a self-contained unit (phosphorus reclamation module) capable of removing excess phosphorus from river, lake, agricultural, and wastewater. Decreasing the phosphorus load will prevent harmful algal blooms which affect water. This unit would be applicable in many settings and would require little knowledge to keep it running and keep water contamination free.