It takes a special kind of person to save the planet from pollution. Oftentimes, scientists work tirelessly to think of ways to cleaning up the ocean and saving the endangered species that live in the areas. While many of their methods have worked, more help is undoubtedly needed.
While these scientists have years of experience under their belt, it’s more shocking to read about the younger generation doing something about pollution. This is exactly what Fionn did. He found a way to address microplastic pollution with something he had discovered.
Fionn Ferreira is young Irishman had come up with an innovative and effective method to solve the microplastic pollution problem that’s festering a lot of bodies of water. In fact, he won Google’s international science fair when he come upon the method.
What this young student did was mix magnetized iron oxide and vegetable oil together. With this, he was able to create a kind of liquid magnet that has the ability to collect microplastics. Once gathered, these microplastics can then be removed via magnetism. The method leaves the water clean and unharmed, which is something the world needs.
Fionn grew up in a pristine environment. He had been raised to put importance on the cleanliness of the planet. He hails from the south of Ireland and since he was 12 years old, he has been searching for ways for a solution for the hard-to-clean microplastics. He had seen these dangerous items accumulate in the area as he had witnessed the increasing amount of plastic garbage that washed up on the beaches he frequented while he was growing up.
Fionn prepared a video presentation for the Plastic Soup Foundation. Here, he shared how he came upon the project. He said, “I was at our beach and I saw a rock and it had oil spill residue on it, and stuck to this oil spill residue were plastic particles.”
He further said, “I asked myself why is this happening, and I found out that plastic particles are what we call non-polar, and oil is non-polar too. In chemistry likes attract likes, which means non-polar things attract non-polar things.”
Fionn had heard of something called ferrofluid. This was a kind of magnetic water made by combining vegetable oil with magnetized iron oxide powder. In the same video presentation given, he presented that oil attracted the microplastics, and the immersion of a magnet was able to collect a good amount of it.
“I started out as a lonely inventor,” Ferreira shared with BBC. “After the Google Science Fair, I could all of a sudden speak to scientists—they gave me credit for what I had done. My idea was no longer a toy invented by a child.”
A total of around 5,000 tests were made, and each had shown how his method could clean 87 percent to 93 percent of microplastics from the water. His project was able to collect a variety of microplastics from different sources such as car tires, plastic bottles, and laundry water. He then demonstrated his method at the 2019 Google Science Fair. As a result, he won a $50,000 scholarship. The money was put to good use and he went on to study chemistry at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.
Fionn is currently working on finding ways to fit his method into a device that can span the opening of a home waterpipe or the pipes at a wastewater plant. He hopes that by then, his device will allow the ferrofluid to continuously clean the water that moves through these passageways. He’s also looking into making a different machine that can be mounted on boats as well.
“He observed and tackled a problem he saw locally which has vast global significance,” Larissa Kelly, Ferreira’s former science teacher at Schull Community College shared with BBC. She further spoke about his invention and said, “His invention, based on very simple components, is groundbreaking. It has powerful potential to provide solutions that will contribute to the worldwide effort to remove microplastics from the environment.”
Hopefully, his invention will come to fruition and save the oceans from further damage.
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