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Teenager Wins Google Science Award for Removing Microplastics From Oceans

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Irish teen Fionn Ferreira won a top science prize with his project to extract micro plastics from the ocean.

During walk on the beach in his hometown in Wests Cork Ferreira he came across a rock covered in oil with plastic bits embedded within and this, together with the alarming amount of micro plastics ending up in our oceans inspired him to start his project to find a way to remove micro plastics from wastewater before it reaches the oceans.

Fionn Ferreira, 18, won first prize for his plastic pollution project. Credit: Google Science Fair

During Ferreira’s research into current methods of extraction he came upon Dr Arden Warner’s method for cleaning up oil spills using magnetite powder. This information started his experiments of oil mixed with magnetite added to water with plastic pieces created to match those found in the ocean. The plastic particles attached to the oil and magnetite mixture and Ferreira found that a magnet dipped into the solution it attracted both substances, leaving the water clean.

“I was alarmed to find out how many microplastics enter our wastewater system and consequently the oceans,” he wrote in his project

After extensive testing, ‘’950 tests, to be exact’’, Ferreira found the method removed 88% of micro plastics from the water.

Solution that can extract microplastic particles from water. Credit: Google Science Fair/ Fionn Ferreira

Ferreira plans to start his studying at the University of Groningen’s Stratingh Institute for Chemistry in the Netherlands this autumn and says, “I want to encourage others by saying you don’t have to test everything in a professional lab. That’s why I built my own equipment.”

There is hope for our planet with brilliant young people like Ferreira taking on the mammoth task of reversing the damage created by pollution.

“I’m not saying that my project is the solution, the solution is that we stop using plastic altogether.”

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