MIPS 25th Anniversary Profile: Beacon Research–stormwater filtration system

Leading up to (and beyond) the Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS) 25th Anniversary Gala, each weekday we will briefly profile one of the 500+ companies that have utilized MIPS funding to bring innovations to market and create jobs in Maryland. These profiles will be collected in a commemorative book, released at the celebration on November 7.

Project Manager:  David M. Ayres;  Principal InvestigatorAllen Davis, Ahmet Aydilek, UMD
Location:  Columbia, Maryland – Howard County;  Project Start Date:  2/1/2012

Business Description
Beacon Research is a research and development firm focused on environmental remediation research, clean water technology and rapid prototyping.

Challenge
Our current urban infrastructure is highly reliant on impervious surfaces, including roadways, parking lots, and building rooftops. Rainfall that strikes these surfaces cannot infiltrate into the soil and subsurface, rapidly becoming surface runoff. This runoff is conveyed away from the source via the stormdrain infrastructure system to minimize flooding and associated safety concerns. As this rainfall and runoff is transported across these impervious surfaces, particulate matter is mobilized and transported. These particulates include soil matter and anthropogenic particulate matter resulting from the attrition of pavements, vehicle wear materials, and corroded building materials. These enhanced flows and particulate loads are directed into local receiving bodies, causing erosion problems, toxicity concerns, and general overall detriment to stream ecosystems. Currently, most urban storm drains have no or inefficient treatment.  An efficient technology to address stormwater quality in highly urbanized areas could have a major impact in managing runoff in these areas. This issue is of particular importance in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, as particulate matter may include nitrogen and phosphorus-containing matter.  These two nutrients, in addition to sediment, are the primary pollutants of the Chesapeake Bay.

The premise for this work is that commercial synthetic filter and drain elements, namely geosynthetics, can be used as filters to remove particulate matter from urban runoff and that the resulting technology will have several advantages over existing stormwater control technologies.  Fundamental laboratory work to date has demonstrated that geosynthetic filters can effectively remove suspended solids from urban runoff through a filtration mechanism, improving water quality; and provide uniform flow and thereby increase the drainage capacity of the drain system. Geosynthetics can provide a simple treatment system and/or replace traditional sand filters in stormwater runoff treatment systems in urban areas, while minimizing the need for cleaning or material replacement. These filters may also have other filtration applications for water quality improvements.

MIPS Role
The grant from MIPS and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources enabled Beacon Research to transfer the laboratory-scale research into working prototypes for testing in urban environments. Although the research conducted in Dr. Allen Davis’ laboratory in the University of Maryland’s department of civil and environmental engineering proved the validity of the technology, the applied science had not yet been proven. The MIPS funding is assisting BRI as the company builds and tests multiple prototypes. The project team is examining the economy of design and replacement of geotextile filters within stormdrains and their performance under varying environmental conditions.

Results
While this project is underway, BRI’s range of prototypes has been designed and constructed and are awaiting approval from the University of Maryland and Howard County to insert in optimal locations for testing. Once field-testing is complete, the product is slated for a launch in late 2013.

MIPS-Related Quote
“MIPS allows small companies like ours to tap into the brightest minds and the best talent within the University of Maryland system as we tackle the most challenging problems of cleaning the Chesapeake Bay.  With our MIPS-DNR grant, we were able to leverage our strength in design and rapid prototyping with the academic strengths of the University.”
–David M Ayres, Principal Scientist, BRI

Download the Beacon Research spread from the upcoming book, “MIPS 25thAnniversary Commemorative Collection: Creating Partners in Innovation,” to be released at the MIPS 25th Anniversary Gala on Nov. 7.

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