An Irish teenager has won a global science award for his project which aims to remove microplastics from the oceans.
Fionn Ferreira from west Cork was named the overall winner of the 2019 Google Science Fair, winning $50,000 to develop his project on microplastic extraction from water.
The 18-year-old’s winning idea involves using magnets to filter microplastics from bodies of water. The young scientist used a magnetic liquid called ferrofluid, which sticks to plastic, and which is then attracted to the magnets and removed from the water.
In the presence of water, ferrofluids – non-toxic magnetic liquids made up of oil and magnetite, an iron- based rock mineral – attract the microplastics because both have similar properties. For his project, Fionn Ferreira added oil and magnetite to water and mixed in a solution emulating plastic waste in the ocean.
When the microplastics latched on to the ferrofluids, Fionn Ferreira dipped a magnet into the solution three times to remove both substances, leaving clear water.
After approximately 1000 tests, the method was found to be 88% effective in removing a variety of microplastics from water, surpassing the young scientist’s original hypothesis of an 85% removal rate.
Fionn Ferreira, who is due to attend university in the Netherlands starting next month, was inspired to create a solution to microplastics in the oceans while he was out on a walk in his coastal hometown of Ballydehob, where he ran across a stone with oil and plastic stuck to it.
He said: “I was alarmed to find out how many microplastics enter our wastewater system and consequently the oceans.
“I look forward to applying my findings and contributing towards a solution in tackling microplastics in our oceans worldwide.”
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyle including sustainable and green living. She also offers content services to businesses and individuals at Rosamedea.com