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Teen Wins Google 2019 Science Fair By Removing Microplastics From Drinking Water

The very first media reports about microplastics in the drinking water first surfaced back in 2017. Those reports were followed by a variety of scientific publications. Microplastics in the water affect humans, animals, and the overall environment. A study that was conducted in 2015 attempted to measure just how much microplastic in the world’s oceans exists. The final estimate was about 15-51 trillion pieces that weigh in between 93,000 and 236,000 tons. Enter Fionn Ferreira!

Fionn Ferreira is an Irish teenager that has managed to create an amazing way of extracting microplastics from water. The method was developed as a project for Google’s 2019 science fair. Fionn Ferreira won the event, and his method has managed to gain popularity of the world. It is an effective method that has been named as ‘Investigation into the removal of microplastics from water using ferrofluids.’

If it wasn’t clear from the name of the project; Fionn Ferreira has come up with a means of filtering microplastics by making use of ferrofluids. Almost all of you have probably come across the ferrofluids. They are essentially non-toxic magnetic liquids that comprise of magnetite liquid and oil and are reactive to magnets. Fionn Ferreira has been able to attract microplastic by making use of the non-polar properties of ferrofluids and microplastics. During the project, he investigated this extraction method using ten different kinds of microplastics.

He measured the concentration of plastics before and after making use of the filtration methods using a homebuilt microscope and spectrometer. The inspiration for the project was the pollution that he noticed near his home. He said, ‘I live near the seashore and have become increasingly aware of plastic pollution of the oceans. I was alarmed to find out how many microplastics enter our wastewater system and consequently, the oceans. this inspired me to try and find out a way to try and remove microplastics from waters before they even reached the sea.’

The method devised by the young innovator allows him to remove more than 85% of plastic except for the polypropylene that only undergoes a reduction of about 80%. We will have to wait and see how this project can be scaled up and used for tackling the problem of microplastics in our water.