Urban Stormwater: Exploring New Ways to Remove Nutrient Pollution

Urban Renewal Project in South Korea

We are excited to share that researchers at the Center have secured sponsorship from Oldcastle Infrastructure, a CRH Company, to explore technologies to remove nitrogen from urban stormwater.

Nutrient pollution is a widespread and challenging problem in urban stormwater management. Stormwater runoff carries nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizer, pet waste, and other sources to creeks, rivers, and lakes, where these nutrients can contribute to algal blooms. Algal blooms can be toxic to humans and aquatic life and are an environmental problem throughout the United States.

The team, led by Principal Investigator Lena Trotochaud, PhD, includes Alina Kirillova, PhD, Postdoctoral Researcher at Duke in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, and Brian Hawkins, PhD, Associate Research Professor at the Center. Researchers will explore novel passive filtration materials to reduce nitrogen concentration in stormwater that can be used in combination with existing treatment methods such as bioretention or biofiltration.

"This is a concept that Mariana Vasquez, a Duke graduate student, and I started developing over several months of working from home during the early days of the pandemic, when I was itching to get back into the lab," says Trotochaud. "Being able to finally take these ideas out of my head and bring them into the world is exciting and gratifying, and I'm thrilled for this opportunity to work with the product development team at Oldcastle Infrastructure."

Oldcastle Infrastructure posted the opportunity on Halo, a partnering platform where scientists and startups from around the world connect directly with companies for research collaborations. Our thanks to Fedor Kossakovski from the Duke Office for Translation & Commercialization for bringing the opportunity to the Center's attention. The project will run for nine months.

Photo: Cheonggyecheon stream in Seoul, South Korea. Cheonggyecheon stream is the result of a massive urban renewal project.