This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
OK
Dublin: 13 °C Wednesday 18 September, 2019
Advertisement

Irish teenager wins global science award for removing microplastics from water

Fionn Ferreira from Cork received a €45,000 bursary.

Fionn Ferreira
Fionn Ferreira
Image: MKC/Google Science Fair

AN IRISH TEENAGER has won an international science award for his project which removed microplastics from water. 

Fionn Ferreira, from Ballydehob in west Cork, has been named the overall winner of the 2019 Google Science Fair, a prestigious annual global science competition open to students aged 13 to 18.

The 18-year-old was awarded a $50,000 (about €45,000) bursary at an awards ceremony at the Google international headquarters in Mountain View, California, yesterday.

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.

In waterways, fish and other wildlife mistake the tiny scraps of plastic for food and, from there, the beads are integrated into the food chain.

Source: Fionn Ferreira/YouTube

At present, no screening or filtering for microplastics takes place in any European wastewater treatment centres.

Ireland plans to introduce legislation that will outlaw the sale, manufacture, import and export of products containing microplastics.

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,” he said.

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.”

Ferrier sat his Leaving Certificate exams last month at Schull Community College and is due to attend university in the Netherlands. 

The teenager works as a curator at the Schull Planetarium, has won 12 science fair awards, speaks three languages fluently, plays the trumpet at orchestra level, and had a minor planet named after him by the MIT Lincoln Laboratory.

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article
  •  

About the author:

Órla Ryan

Read next:

COMMENTS (44)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel