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Final Capstone Report


Lara Glendening and Marilynn Hunt
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Table of contents:

List of individual contributions …………………………...…………...………………………....3

Problem definition ...………...……………………………………………………………………4

Design requirements ...…………………………………………………………………………....4

Conceptual design …….…………………………………………………………………………..5

Alternative concepts ……………………………………………………………………....5

Evaluation of alternatives ………………………………………………………………...7

Selection of a concept …………………………………………………………………….8

Detailed design ……………………………………………………………………………...…….9

Main features and how they work ………………………………………………………...9

Results of analysis, experiments, and models ...………………………………………....12

Manufacturing details …………………………………………………………………...13

Performance evaluation ……………………………………………………………………..…..14

Lessons learned ………………………………………………………………..………………...15


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Individual Contributions:

Lara:

Formatting the report

Title and authors

Problem definition

Detailed design

Performance evaluation

Marilynn:

Table of Contents

Individual contributions

Design requirements

Conceptual design

Lessons learned
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Problem Definition:

According to the US Department of Energy, 1.3 million gallons of oil spill into US waters alone

each year. Most spills are small, but some are enormous, spilling up to 500,000 gallons of oil

into the water. This is also a major problem outside of the United States. Major oil spills can be

incredibly damaging to ecosystems, harming wildlife and polluting the ocean for years after the

spill. The harm done to animals can be deadly, and ecosystems will likely struggle to recover.

The existing methods of cleaning up oil spills are also very harmful to the environment. There

are three main methods: chemical dispersants, burning off the oil, and skimmers. Chemical

dispersants further pollute the water, burning releases toxic chemicals into the air, and skimmers

are not effective enough at stopping oil from sinking to the bottom. Because of these

shortcomings, a solution is needed that will effectively clean up oil spills without doing even

more harm to the environment.

Design Requirements:

Oil spills are difficult to clean up from the ocean, and the oil is hard to get rid of after it is

collected. An ideal product to clean up oil would be environmentally friendly, float, remove the

oil, consume the oil, and be easy to transport. The consumption of the oil would be by a bacteria

called alcanivorax borkumensis. The perfect product would be very absorbent, but mainly soak

up the oil, not the water. Absorbing the material will make the product heavy, so the product also

cannot sink from the weight because that would pollute the ocean and be difficult to pull by a
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boat. The project being safe for the environment is also important because the purpose of it is to

improve the environment. It would defeat its own purpose if it is harmful to the environment.

Figure 1: Product’s ideal system

The performance requirements are:

Must absorb oil.

Must be transportable.

Must consume/destroy oil.

Must be environmentally friendly.

Conceptual Design:

Alternative Concepts:

Three concepts were created with the design requirements after brainstorming 5 possible

solutions for each requirement.


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Table 1: Classification Scheme

Table 2: Visual Classification Scheme

Concept 1 is a bacteria infused sponge that soaks up oil and is made up of eco-friendly materials.

It would be dragged by a drone so that the machinery does not have as much risk of getting oil

on it and breaking down.


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Concept 2 will gather the oil like a boom and have bacteria grown inside of it. The bacteria will

be living and growing in the sponge. The sponge will also be pulled around by a boat gathering

the oil. It will also be reusable.

Concept 3 will be a sponge soaked in the bacteria and dropped off of a boat. It will float in the

water, releasing the bacteria and when it is soaked in oil it will be picked up by a boat. The

sponge will also be biodegradable in case it sinks or breaks apart, but not immediately

biodegradable.

Evaluation of Alternatives:

The scoring criteria for the concepts are floats well, bacteria works well, easy to transport, safe

for the environment, and cost efficient. We scored the concepts with a decision matrix, shown

below in table 3. They were chosen for the following reasons:

● Floats well- This is necessary so that the product doesn’t sink to bottom of ocean and

pollute.

● Bacteria works well- This is the staple of the project because the bacteria eats the oil.

● Easy to transport- The product needs to be as accessible as possible.

● Safe for environment- The product’s main goal is to clean the environment; further

harming it would be counter productive.

● Cost efficient- The product must be inexpensive enough that people are willing to buy it.
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Table 3: Decision Matrix

The criteria was weighted in the following way:

● Floats well and bacteria works well are weighted the highest because they are the main

process of how the design will work.

● Safe for the environment was next highest because the product is designed to clean

oceans.

● Easy to transport and low cost are the lowest because the main target consumer is oil

companies and they can afford and have the resources to use the product. The product

being inexpensive would be nice, but it is not the main priority.

Selection of a Concept:

Concept 1 had the highest evaluation at 6.2 as seen in Table 3. Because of this it is the winning

design. The only change is that the drone and boat ideas will be swapped though because the

transportability score would increase, making it an even better concept. The drone idea also did

not seem as feasible as the boat, so it makes sense to switch them. The product will be a bacteria

infused sponge that soaks up oil, is dragged by a boat, and is made up of eco-friendly materials.
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Detailed Design:

Main Features and How They Work:

The design is a 30 meter by 15 meter cotton fiber sponge infused with ​Alcanivorax Borkumensis

bacteria and pulled by two boats. The sponge is inlaid with two steel rings, which are used to tie

on the nylon rope attaching the sponge to the boat. The cotton fiber sponge has multiple layers

for maximum oil absorption. The sponge is soaked in a solution containing ​Alcanivorax

Borkumensis,​ as well as nitrogen and phosphorus “fertilizer” to create an ideal

Carbon:Nitrogen:Phosphorus ratio of 100:10:1. This process is known as biostimulation, and it

will provide the bacteria extra nutrients to feed on so they can maximize their efficiency.

Although there is a risk that these nutrients will upset the ecosystem, the bacteria will feed on

them and minimize their presence, and proper oversight and management will be in place. The

boats, as well as pulling the sponge, will churn the water, which adds even more to the bacteria’s

efficiency. Below is a sketch of the final design.

Figure 2: Detailed sketch of final design


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The cotton fiber material in the sponge was chosen after extensive research and testing.

Experiments were conducted to determine the best material between three choices: peat moss,

polypropylene, and cotton fiber. The results of these experiments showed that the cotton fiber

absorbed the most oil. It is also natural and biodegradable. Polypropylene is not natural or

biodegradable, and peat moss does not soak up oil effectively. The sponge acts as a sort of

skimmer, soaking up oil on the surface of the water while the bacteria breaks down oil beneath

the surface. The fiber is very effective at soaking up oil and not water. Therefore, it does not sink

unless it has soaked up more than its capacity of oil. Another advantage of the fiber is that it

becomes stronger in water, making it a good material to withstand ocean conditions. Below is a

picture of the cotton fiber material.

Figure 3: Cotton fiber material used for the skimmer sponge

The rings used to connect the skimmer sponge to the rope will be made of stainless steel because

of its rust resistant properties. The rope will be tied to the ring, which will be inlaid in the

sponge. However, the rings in the prototype were 3D printed from PLA, a biodegradable plastic,

to save money and time. Below is are photos of the PLA prototype ring, showing the placement

and function of the stainless steel rings of the final product.


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Figure 4: PLA ring inlaid in the cotton fiber sponge

Figure 5: PLA ring

The product will utilize nylon rope to connect the sponge to the boats. Nylon is a good material

for boating because it is strong and does not break down easily in the sun and water. Below is a

picture of the nylon rope used in the prototype.

Figure 6: Nylon Rope

The final aspect of the product is the ​A. Borkumensis ​bacteria. It feeds on hydrocarbons called

alkanes in the oil, helping to consume it. After metabolizing the alkanes, it produces

biosurfactants, which emulsify the oil and make it even easier to break down.
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Results of Analysis, Experiments, and Models:

Towards the beginning of the project, two experiments were conducted to determine the

materials used in the product and the way the sponge soaks up oil. In the first experiment, the the

three materials mentioned above were tested: peat moss, polypropylene, and cotton fiber. Below

are results of this experiment:

Trial 1 Trial 2 Trial 3 Average

Peat Moss 20mL 30mL 20mL 23.33mL

Cotton Fiber 50mL 45mL 55mL 50mL

Polypropylene 25mL 35mL 25mL 28.33mL


Table 4: Results of Materials Experiment

The second experiment was known as the “skim or soak” experiment. In one set of trials, the

cotton fiber piece was skimmed across the surface of the oil. In the other set, the cotton fiber sat

in one spot. Below are the results of this experiment:

Trial Oil soaked up Uncertainty

Skim 1 30 mL +/- 5 mL

Skim 2 35 mL +/- 5 mL

Skim 3 35 mL +/- 5 mL

Average for skim 33.3 mL +/- 5 mL

Soak 1 35 mL +/- 5 mL

Soak 2 25 mL +/- 5 mL

Soak 3 25 mL +/- 5 mL

Average for soak 28.3 mL +/- 5 mL


Table 5: Results of Skim or Soak Experiment

These experiments showed that cotton fiber was the best material to use, and the sponge should

be skimmed across the oil to reach more surface area.


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Manufacturing Details:

The main product to manufacture for this apparatus is the cotton fiber sheet that will be used as a

skimmer. This can be manufactured by a third party and bought for the apparatus. The fiber is

woven into a sheet, and will have to be custom-made to fit the size requirements of the skimmer.

Below is a diagram showing how raw fiber is turned into the yarn that is woven into a sheet.

Figure 7: Cotton Fiber Manufacturing

The main joining method used is the steel ring that will allow the nylon rope to be tied onto the

sheet of fiber. These rings will be made of stainless steel. These rings will also be manufactured

by a third party and sold to the producers of the apparatus, who will cut holes in the cotton fiber

sheet to place the rings into the fiber. The hole will be slightly smaller than the steel ring, so the

ring can be securely wedged into place. This will allow the rope to be tied on with a secure knot

used in boating, and the rope will be tied on the other end to an attachment on the boat to join it

to the sponge. The rope will also be provided by a third party boating materials supplier or

possibly by the owners of the boat used to pull the sponge.


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Performance Evaluation:

After the prototype was manufactured, performance tests were conducted to evaluate the strength

and effectiveness of the prototype. In the first performance test, water and two cups of oil were

poured into a baby pool, and the small-scale cotton fiber sponge was pulled by two “boats” to

test its effectiveness in soaking up oil. In the second performance test, four tablespoons of motor

oil were poured into a small container of water, and a strain of archaea that performs very

similarly to the ​A. Borkumensis​ bacteria was added. Then, the degradation of oil over time was

measured. Below are the results of both of the tests.

Figure 8: Performance Testing Results

It was predicted that the sponge would soak up half the oil, and that is about what happened. It

was also predicted that the bacteria would break down all of the oil, and although that did not

happen, there was definite oil degradation. Further experiments must be conducted with the

correct bacteria and possible biostimulation.


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Lessons Learned:

A way to improve the product could be to test a wider range of materials and run tests on

how to improve the efficiency of the bacteria. If more sorbent materials were tested, a better,

more efficient, and cheaper material to create the sponge of the product could be found and used.

Also, had the alcanivorax borkumensis bacteria been cheaper, experiments regarding how to

maximize it could have been run. If the bacteria was tested with different methods of stimulating

it to consume the oil faster, it would have greatly improved the product. Unfortunately, the

alcanivorax borkumensis was too expensive to buy and test. These two tests, materials and

bacteria efficiency, would have made the product much better, had they been done.

The capstone project taught students that the first few design steps are mainly

brainstorming, research, data collection, and conceptual designs. They are the foundation of the

project. Design step 4 is when physical testing is started and the prototype is modelled. The

actual prototype is not built or tested until step 6 and 7. It was shocking that most of the design

cycle steps are planning. There is a lot of analysis, research, and debate that goes on in

engineering before the building even starts. The design cycle also leaves a lot of room to

redesign and test aspects of the designs, which is great in order to create the best product

possible.

Teaming up in the capstone project taught many valuable lessons and skills. It fostered

many teamwork skills like communication, collaboration, leadership, and responsibility. These

are vital life skills as well because they are in everyday life, and especially the working world.

The capstone project was a projection of what a project would be like for a real engineer. It gave

students the opportunity to experience a possible career after high school. Working with a
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partner helped develop more understanding and consideration for other people’s ideas. Learning

from peers is a great way to learn. Teaming up creates relationships, which is what the world and

society is made up of.