The expo was held on Earth Day weekend, April 21 and 22 at the National Mall of Washington, D.C. For the student contest, teams were to showcase innovative solutions to environmental problems in an effort to win EPA funding worth up to $90,000. At the expo, the projects were judged by a panel of experts. A few teams, UC being one of them, were selected for phase 2 grants up to $90,000 for students to improve their designs, implement them in the field, or move them to the marketplace. They competed against 44 other U.S. colleges and universities, including Cornell, Princeton and Vanderbilt universities.
Since 2007, Lu and her team of students have collected about 35 gallons of waste fryer fat per month from campus eateries. They routinely cleaned and treated the waste cooking oil, at a cost of about $1.35 per gallon, to make biodiesel fuel. In late 2009, after appropriate testing and EPA approval, Lu partnered with UC’s power plant to use this biodiesel fuel for campus power generation. The team’s biodiesel fuel produced enough energy to sustain the electricity needs of four to five residence-hall rooms for a year.
The team has been working with its local partners, Bluegrass Biodiesel and the Cincinnati Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD), to develop a community-scale biodiesel production system to convert trap grease that’s collected from sewers to convert to biodiesel fuel.