A teenager from Ireland has won $50,000 for his innovation. His project underlines retrieving microplastics present in water. In 2011, Google had started the Google Science Fair. The search engine giant had offered an opportunity to teenagers through this project. Here, students from the 13-18 age group can exhibit their findings before a judges’ panel. If a particular discovery provides amazing and satisfactory results, the company awards the winner worth $50,000. Lego, National Geographic, Virgin Galactic, and Scientific American are some of the sponsors of the contest.
This year, Google has announced Fion Ferreira, an eighteen-year-old Irish boy, as the winner of Google Science competition. The teenager has won the prize for offering a procedure to eliminate microplastics from water. Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic having a diameter of fewer than 5 nanometers that pollute the environment. These plastics are tiny for screening or filtering while treating wastewater. Microplastics have the potential to exfoliate skin; thus, manufacturers often use them in facial scrubs, shower gels, and soaps. Those tiny plastic pieces often occur during a regular cloth wash.
These microplastics enter into water sources and are very difficult to wipe out via filtration. Even more, the plastic enters into the body of small fishes through gills. As big fish feed on a small one, eventually the plastic gets deposited in larger fishes’ body which we eat. As per the United Nations Environment Programme, plastic microbeads are a type of microplastic that companies use in personal care products. To overcome the problem in December 2015, President of USA had signed an Act the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015. As a result, the rule had imposed a ban on the use of plastic microbeads in toiletries and personal-care products.
In the latest finding, Ferreira has used a mixture of magnetite powder and oil to develop a ferrofluid in the water having micro-plastics. Ferrofluid is a liquid which turns into a highly magnetized solution in the presence of a magnetic field. After traping microplastics into the liquid, he had used a magnet to retrieve the solution. After a thousand tests, the process had offered 87% effectiveness in withdrawing microplastics of all types from water. With the certification of methodology, Ferreira expects to scale the technique and implement it at wastewater treatment plants. At such a young age, Ferreira has a vast collection of awards. At the Schull Planetarium, he works as a curator and has fluency in three languages. Besides, the teenager has won a dozen of previous science fair contests.