Anna Du is a 12-year old girl from Andover, Massachusetts and loves the water. She regularly goes to the Boston Harbor and it was there she was struck with the inspiration to make a pollution detecting robot. Her device got the attention of major tech companies.
“One day when I was at Boston Harbor, I noticed there was a lot of plastics on the sand, I tried picking some up, but there seemed to be so many more, and it just seemed impossible to clean it all up,” she tells local media.
She was not the first person to have observed the plastic, but she did something about it and made a robot with an infrared light that could detect microplastics in the ocean. Microplastics are defined as particles of plastic under 5 mm and are becoming an increasing problem all over the world.
A study released just this April showed that ice samples from the Arctic Ocean contained 12,000 microplastic particles per liter of sea ice. This is the highest measurement ever taken. Scientists inspired by Du’s pollution detecting robot used a similar system of infrared. The chemical bonds within the plastics are good at absorbing infrared.
With her robot, Du applied for the 3M’s Young Scientist Lab and was accepted. She will be mentored by scientists there in ways she can improve her robot. She wishes to go further and her next aim to make autonomous microplastic-detecting drones.
You can check out the robot in the video below: