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Paige Brown USA, 19

Project: Phosphosorb
Basic Human Needs: Environment, Water

Paige was shocked to learn that the streams in her community, where she had played as a child, were extremely polluted by phosphate. Even worse, she couldn’t believe how few people were aware of the polluted waters. She learned that such pollution could spread quickly throughout water systems, poison residents and decimate the environment. Paige invented Phosphosorb, a device made from a biodegradable hydrogel-polymer scaffold and an absorptive chemical to clean polluted water. Just one gram of the scaffold can filter thousands of liters of phosphate-polluted water in days for the cost of only 4 cents, and then recycle into slow-release fertilizer. Paige is also raising awareness about water pollution through large-scale outreach and hands-on workshops. She has reached thousands of people by speaking at the 2016 Maine State TEDx conference, as well as the 2016 and 2017 Congress for Future Science and Technology Leaders. In addition, Paige’s work has been featured in publications from local papers to Business Insider, and she has educated hundreds of students on water testing, scientific inquiry and environmental stewardship skills. Over the next year, Paige plans to improve the technology of Phosphosorb, developing it to remove several pollutants and ensuring the scaffold can easily be reused as fertilizer. Paige wants to mass-produce the device and establish a nonprofit organization to give Phosphosorb to communities worldwide.