To the untrained eye, the Puralytics “lily pad” looks like nothing more than a flat piece of mesh, approximately one foot in diameter, passively floating Nano Lilypadon the water. But its appearance belies its power. So dubbed because of how it mimics the water plant by that name, a nanotech lily pad uses the sun to activate five photochemical processes that break down or remove organics, coliforms, and metals from storm water.

The emerging technology used to create the pads is patterned after Puralytics’ award-winning nanotechnology for drinking water purification. The process actually destroys contaminants, so it eliminates the problem of disposing of most toxic substances left over from traditional filtering methods.

For their capstone project, four students in the School of Chemical, Biological, and Environmental Engineering — Luke Cach, Cameron Glasscock, Margaret Schneider, and Anthony Tahayeri — collaborated with the Beaverton-based company to run field tests to determine the product’s optimal parameters. The students dug trenches at an outdoor site on campus to test how many lily pads will be needed based on water depth and surface area, how much sunlight is required to activate the technology, and so forth. Analysis of the data collected will be used to build a computer model to guide application of the technology.

–Marie Oliver

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