UCR student team wins EPA grant

Author: Imran Ghori
March 2, 2020

A UC Riverside student research team has been awarded a nearly $25,000 grant to develop sustainable construction material using wheat straw.

The students were among 18 teams of graduate and undergraduate students across the country awarded grants by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, for projects that use sustainable technology to address environmental and public health challenges, the agency announced Feb. 19.

“The innovative ideas that these teams are bringing out of the classroom and into the real world will help solve some of our nation’s most pressing environmental challenges,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler.

Sundararajan Venkatadriagaram, an associate professor of teaching in the Department of Mechanical Engineering in the Rosemary and Marlon Bourns College of Engineering, serves as faculty advisor for the UCR team.

The team, made up of mechanical and chemical engineering students, was awarded $25,000 for its proposal to replace traditional gypsum-based drywall with a wheat straw-based material that is normally sent to the landfill as waste in the harvesting process.

The material will have some of the same mechanical properties as drywall but with better moisture resistance and biodegradability when disposed, according to the project proposal. The students also expect it will reduce wheat straw material disposed at landfills as well as the vehicle trips to transport that waste.

The funding was awarded as part of the People, Prosperity, and the Planets grants program in which the teams develop the proof of concept for their projects. 

The student teams are invited to showcase their research at the EPA’s National Student Design Expo in June and can apply for a second-phase grant to develop their projects for real-world conditions and take them to market.