13-Year-Old Odisha Girl Wins Award at Google Science Fair for Purifying Water with Corn Cobs

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A student of standard IX in DPS Damanjodi of Odisha, Lalita Prasida Sripada Srisai has won an award at the prestigious Google Science Fair. She developed a low cost water purifier which uses corn cobs in a very innovative manner.

Lalita Prasida Sripada Srisai, a 13-year-old student from Odisha, won the ‘Community Impact Award’ at the prestigious Google Science Fair in California on Tuesday.


A student of DPS Damanjodi in Koraput district of Odisha, Lalita developed a low cost bio-absorbent based water purifier, which functions mainly on waste corn cobs.

She won in the 13-15 years age group, and received 10,000 USD as the prize money. Additionally, she will also be supported by the organization for a year to build upon her project.

Her basic idea was to purify water using the least utilised part of the maize plant – that is the corn cob. A very important agricultural waste, corn cob is a suitable adsorbent because of its high mechanical strength, rigidly and porosity.

“Hence, contaminants like oxides of salts, detergents, suspended particles, coloured dyes, oil and grease get adsorbed in the surface of the corn cobs. Some of the heavy metals are also adsorbed by corn cobs. If the drain pipe of the household is connected to a chamber having different layers of corn cobs in partition layers or to an S-trap pipe having corn cobs, it will separate about more than 70-80 % of contaminants including suspended particles from the waste water,” says the report published about her project on the Google Science Fair website.

It is a cheap and eco-friendly way of purifying water. And it will also open up a new market for corn cobs that are usually discarded as bio-waste.

lalita3 For the experiment, Lalita collected the cobs from the nearby farm, and sun dried them for a month. The pith of one cob was removed to make a hole at the centre of it, in which 50ml of domestic effluent collected from a kitchen drain pipe, was poured. This was allowed to pass through the hole and the collected filtrate was collected was then tested for purity. After this pilot stage, water with several added chemical impurities was passed through five bottles, each containing a different layer for purification.

These layers included long pieces of corn cobs, small pieces of corn cobs, powdered corn cobs, activated charcoal made from corn cobs and fine sand.

lalita4 It was observed that most of the coloured substances present in the water were adsorbed in the charcoal layer. The suspended particles were adsorbed in the chaff layers of both long and small pieces of corn cobs. And gasoline waste was adsorbed in the powdered corn cob layer. According to her teacher, Pallabi Mahapatro, the technique can be used for immobilising the contaminants in domestic and industrial effluents, and in ponds, reservoirs and water tanks.

Students and staff at her school celebrated this victory. She was congratulated by many on social media as well.


According to the headmaster of DPS Damanjodi, Trinath Prasad Padhi, Lalita is also very proficient in extra-curricular activities like song and dance. A major function at school has been planned to honour her when she returns.

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