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VOL. 36 | NO. 20 | Friday, May 18, 2012




EPA awards Vanderbilt $90K grant to further spinach/solar panel research

By Hollie Deese

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded Vanderbilt one of its People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) Phase grants at the 8th annual National Sustainable Design Expo last month in Washington, D.C.

Vanderbilt was one of three universities in the Southeast to receive the grant, and one of 15 nationwide. This year’s winners were selected from 45 competing teams after two days of judging. The grants were given on the project’s potential to provide innovative, sustainable solutions to worldwide environmental problems.

Vanderbilt was awarded the money for developing a biohybrid solar panel that substitutes a protein from spinach for rare mined metals, and is capable of producing electricity. The school will receive a grant of up to $90,000 to further develop their design and apply it to real world applications or move it to the marketplace.

“From the first minutes of the competition, they generated a buzz that rapidly spread across vast P3 exhibition space,” says Kane Jennings, professor of chemical engineering and one of the team’s two mentors. “We were one of only two teams to win three awards.”

The students – Eric Dilbone, Phil Ingram, Trevan Locke, Paul McDonald and Jason Ogg – had won a Phase I $15,000 grant in November from the EPA for their bio-inspired solar panel. Dilbone and Ingram are senior mechanical engineering majors; Locke, McDonald and Ogg are senior chemical engineering majors.

“The crowd was overwhelmingly fascinated by what we have done with spinach,” Dilbone says.

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