A 18 year old Irish teenager named Fionn Ferreira from Ballydehob in west Cork has won a global science award for his project which removed microplastics from water.
Fionn Ferreira was awarded a $50,000 (about €45,000) bursary at an awards ceremony at the Google international headquarters in Mountain View, California.
Ferreira was one of 24 finalists chosen from a shortlist of 100 regional entries that competed for the top prize. His project examined a new method for extracting microplastics (plastic particles less than 5mm in diameter) from water.
Microplastics or microbeads are mostly used in soaps, shower gels and facial scrubs to exfoliate skin, although they also can be found in toothpaste and abrasive cleaners.
At present, no screening or filtering for microplastics takes place in any wastewater treatment centres.
Ferreira used ferrofluids, a combination of oil and magnetite powder, and magnets to extract microplastics from water.
In 1,000 tests, Ferreira was able to remove over 87% of microplastics from water samples.
“The method used was most effective on fibres obtained from a washing machine and least effective on polypropylene plastics”
Ferreira stated that his proposal could “form the basis for an effective way of extracting microplastic from water”, adding: “The next step is to scale this up to an industrial scale.”