Student using solar energy to purify water


    LOUISVILLE, Ky. – It looks a bit odd, but it just might revolutionize the way we clean polluted water.

    Venkata Gullapalli, a University of Louisville graduate engineering student, is developing a system to purify water from Beargrass Creek using solar power, tanks, pipes and a concrete waterfall.

    Six solar panels power a pump that sends water from the polluted creek uphill to a 10-foot-high, 1,200-gallon tank. From there, the water seeps through sand, gravel and crushed oyster shells and makes its way to four troughs open to the sun. Ultraviolet rays kill bacteria in the water.

    When the water is clean, Gullapalli opens a valve and sends it streaming down the waterfall, where it picks up beneficial oxygen before flowing back into the creek.

    “The system is still experimental, but it’s showing promise,” said Gullapalli, who holds a Speed School of Engineering master’s degree and is doing his doctoral dissertation on the water purification project.

    Finding a way to clean polluted water cheaply without chemicals or fossil fuels would have worldwide applications, said Russ Barnett, a UofL environmental scholar who along with Speed civil and environmental engineering professor Mark French is helping guide Gullapalli’s research.

    The pilot water purification project is one of several green projects underway at Beargrass Falls, an educational center dedicated today in Karen Lynch Park at Brownsboro Road and Story Avenue in Butchertown.

    UofL is one of nearly a dozen organizations developing the sustainability park. Others include Louisville Metro Council’s Ninth District, Metropolitan Sewer District, Butchertown Neighborhood Association, Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana, Louisville Metro Parks, Jefferson County Cooperative Extension Service, Get Outdoors Kentucky, Youth Build Louisville, University of Kentucky and WaterStep.

    For more details, contact Barnett at 502-418-3896 or