Irish Teenager Removed Microplastics From Oceans And Won Google Science Award

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The climate crisis is looming large for young people.

Irish Teenager Removed Microplastics From Oceans And Won Google Science Award

The climate crisis is looming large for young people. Teenagers like Greta Thunberg inspire kids around the globe to take part in political activism. Then, there are people who look for solutions like Fionn Ferreira, an 18-year-old Irish wunderkind, that won the grand prize at the 2019 Google Science Fair for creating a brilliant method to remove microplastics from the oceans.


Ferreira's project used a novel and effective methodology for removing ocean plastics. He used magnets to attract microplastics from water. This project found that a magnetic liquid called ferrofluid attracted the small plastic particles and removed them from the water. After almost a thousand tests, his device successfully removed about 88% of the microplastics from water samples, according to The Irish Times.


The Google Science Fair invited 24 young scientists from all over the world to its Mountain View, California campus to demonstrate their projects. The invitees were selected from a short list of one hundred global entries. Ferreira's grand prize is $50,000 in educational funding.


The idea came to him after he found a rock covered in oil close to his remote coastal town in Ireland's southwest. He noticed tiny bits of plastic stuck to the oil. The small size of microplastics has befuddled scientists looking for ways to remove them from the environment. But Ferreira thought of something.


Those microplastics, less than 5mm long, come from beauty products, various textiles and larger bits of plastic that break down. Because they're so small, they escape water filtration systems and end up polluting waterways. Once in rivers and oceans, marine animals of all sizes end up ingesting them.


They're ending up in humans too. A recent study found that humans eat, on average, over 50,000 pieces of microplastics every year. That number skyrockets for people who mainly drink bottled water, according to EcoWatch.


Since plastic and oil stick together, Ferreira wondered whether the same thing would happen if he used ferrofluid, that helps control vibration in speakers and seals off electronic devices from debris.


Microplastics and ferrofluids have similar properties, so that they attract. For the experiments, shown in this video, Ferreira added ferrofluids to water and stirred in a solution chock full of microplastics. When the microplastics found the ferrofluids, they adhered together. Then, Ferreira dipped a magnet to the solution, which attracted the combined ferrofluids and microplastics. It left behind clear water, according to CNN.


Ferreira is proud of what he made and the prize he received before he headed to the University of Groningen in the Netherlands for college. Nevertheless, he warned that solely removing plastics from the water is not the answer.


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Thinking Humanity: Irish Teenager Removed Microplastics From Oceans And Won Google Science Award
Irish Teenager Removed Microplastics From Oceans And Won Google Science Award
The climate crisis is looming large for young people.
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