Lotus Project

THE ISSUE LOTUS IS ADDRESSING | How do we keep our oceans and waterways clean?

HOW WE STARTED | Lotus started tackling the issue of waste in water systems by looking at collecting waste from the ocean. Despite the fame of the supposed Pacific Garbage Patch, the majority of waste in the ocean isn’t in sizes that we are used to. Instead, because of ultraviolet rays from the sun and the strong ocean currents, the majority of waste in the ocean are micro-plastics; plastics broken down to be the same size as phytoplankton.

Rather than cleaning waste from the ocean directly, Lotus decided to take a different approach: removing waste in rivers. Stop the waste while it is young, before it has the chance to enter the ocean and become micro-sized.

THE CONCEPT | The goal of Lotus keep waste from entering our oceans. For the Lotus project, there are two definitions of waste: solid and chemical. Solid waste are items like plastics, Styrofoam, basically anything that would end up in a landfill. Chemical wastes are chemical toxins that have entered the river stream. Examples are heavy metals, urban run-off, or even fecal matter. It should be noted that chemical waste varies greatly upon location.

Lotus intends to address the issues of both solid and chemical waste. Lotus filters out solid waste through the design of the array (pictured below). The array is designed using probability (like a Pachinko machine) such that as solid waste flows on the surface of the river through the array, the majority of trash will be redirected to shore to be collected. This design takes solid waste out of the water and onto shore without the use of outside energy. It simply utilizes the flow of the river.

The beauty of the design of Lotus comes from the integration of the chemical filter. Through research, we have discovered that to achieve the filtration of solid waste through the array, only the shape of each pillar matters. Each pillar must be an airfoil shape so as to redirect flow. However, what each pillar is made up is entirely not relevant. Thus, Lotus decided to make the pillars be chemical filters as well such that as water flows through and around the system, the river is being chemically filtered as well.

WHAT WE HAVE DONE | Lotus has been a UCSD ESW project since September 2014. Our team consists of seven members ranging from first years to fifth years across many majors. During the past year and half Lotus has been conducting lots of research, gaining collaborators in the community, and applying for multiple funding competitions.

In January 2015, we got permission to work the Hydraulics Laboratory down at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. Here, the team started working on building a scale model of our concept.

In March 2015, 3 members our team attended the Clinton Global Initiative – University at University of Miami, Florida. We presented a poster in the category of Environment and Climate Change. We were Semi-Finalists at Resolution Project, which was a funding competition at CGIU.

In April 2015, we were Semi-Finalists in the USD Social Innovation Challenge.

In May 2015, we were Finalists in the UCSD Social Innovation Fund. Here received funding to build our full scale model.

Lotus team took a break during the summer of 2015.

In October 2015, our scaled model was completely built and our first in water testing was completed. (Possibly the strangest thing to be filmed on a go-pro).

In November 2015, we presented our work at the UCSD Founder’s Symposium.

In addition, we have been conducting various on-site visits at local rivers in the San Diego area.

In January 2016, three members of our team attended the CGIU conference at UC Berkeley.

Lotus had a leadership transition, starting January 2017.

First iteration of a pillar structure was completed early February 2017.

Second iteration of the pillar was completed at the end of February 2017.

Received funding from TGIF for over $1,000 in March 2017.

Lotus invited to attend Clinton Global Initiative University 2018 (CGIU).

WHERE WE ARE NOW |Lotus is currently refining the second iteration of our pillar. We have these objectives to accomplish:

  1. Primary Objective: Ensure the pillar floats halfway below water while having an anchoring system which prevents rotation but compensates for the rise and fall of the river.  The anchoring system must be low impact on the river and take up little space. To do so, our plan is to lower the center of mass of the pillar near the river basin, and anchor it here.  Ideas on how to do this are still being fleshed out.
  2. CAD design of pillar, intended for small scale flow testing.  This allows us to do FEA (finite element analysis) and flow simulations before altering/creating physical models.  Additionally, CAD models can be 3-D printed to physically test an array on small scales or present concepts with a physical model.
  3. Test floating garden plants on river water, sampled from the San Diego River.  Place the plants atop a water sample, periodically record purity and use this information to resolve a filtration rate.
  4. Analysis of trash through our newly built water channel using using imageJ.
  5. Team Lotus is actively researching the use of microbes to perform bioremediation within our array of pillars.

Pillar Array

HOW YOU CAN HELP | We are constantly looking for expertise in the areas of water filtration, structural engineering within rivers, environmental law, and laws regarding building infrastructure here and abroad. If you are or know of anyone working on a similar project, or is an expert of any of the fields listed, please send them our way!

We look forward to recruiting new members Fall 2018.

CONTACT | Team leaders: Brandon Markey at bmarkey@ucsd.edu and Jenny Hong at jth006@ucsd.edu.