On Monday 26th July 2019, Fionn Ferreira from West Cork, Ireland was pronounced the winner of the “Google Science Fair” competition in a ceremony at the Google headquarters in California.
The annual “Google Science Fair” award was launched in 2011. This international competition challenges13 to 18-year-olds to use Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths to produce a project, which resolves a social issue of importance to them.
18 year old, Ferreira won the $50,000 prize for his project tackling plastic pollution. Ferreira’s project focused on the removal of microplastics from water .Microplastics are any plastic particles 5mm in diameter.
In Europe there are currently no filtering methods for microplastics in wastewater treatment centres. Consequently, microplastics enter waterway systems, rivers and oceans as by-products from industrial and cosmetic processes and as microfibers shedding from clothes during washing machine cycles. Microplastics not only pollute our waters, but fish consume these minute plastics mistaking them for food. These fish are then caught for human consumption and microplastics have been found in tap water.
Ferreira invented a Ferro-fluid (a liquid which reacts to a magnetic field) by combining oil and magnetite. This Ferro-fluid was tested in water contaminated with microplastics.The microplastics bind to the Ferro-fluid. The solution was then extracted with a magnet leaving only water.The results of one thousand experiments on various types of microplastics showed that this method was most effective in removing microplastics extracted from washing machines. It was least effective in extracting Polypropylene microplastics resulting in a 87% success rate.
In the future, with further research, Ferreira’s Ferro-fluid method of extracting microplastics from water can be up scaled and used in wastewater treatment centres. This will potentially prevent microplastics from entering waterway systems, polluting aquatic and marine eco- systems and contribute to tackling this current climate crisis.
Ferreira is currently in his last year of Secondary school and is presenting talks on his ground-breaking scientific invention.
The 2016 winner of the “Google Science Fair Award” was, 16 year old, Kiara Nirghin from South Africa. Her winning project was about using fruit to fight drought.’ The Google Science Fair Award’ was not awarded in 2017, but It was re-launched in September 2018 with a range of new awards in addition to the Grand Prize. The final winners from the 2018 entry were announced in July 2019.
For more information about Ferreira and his project: https://www.googlesciencefair.com*https://www.fionnferreira.com/
By Lina Kurdi