18 year old wins $50,000 Science Fair Prize for this method of extracting microplastics from water using ferro-fluids

18 year old wins $50,000 Science Fair Prize for this method of extracting microplastics from water using ferro-fluids

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  1. Why have the extra step of using magnetite? It looks like the micro plastics are removed from the water and collected into the oil. At that point you would just need an oil separator to remove the oil from the water, I believe most water treatment plants already have this step incorporated in their process.

  2. In these science fair headlines where someone does something, are these kids the inventors who are sitting at home like, I bet this would be a good idea?

    Or is it the result of a research effort by a teacher who gives the student some reading material, and then the student just follows the instructions in order to make a presentation?

  3. This is cool – for anyone wondering how it works, my (educated) guess is that the oil is emulsified in the water, the plastic moves from the water into the oil (as plastics are hydrophobic – in fact, they’re similar in composition and structure to oils, just polymerised into much longer molecules). The magnetite then does the same, ending up in the oil droplets. The magnetite can then be used to pull all the oil droplets together, taking the plastic with them.

    This is cool – but as someone else has said, does not *to me* seem like something that can be used for oceanic cleanup on a grand scale. The oil is what’s doing the work – the magnetite is just a cool way of separating the oil and water, instead of waiting for it to happen under gravity.

    *edit* I’ve done a little extra reading and it looks like getting all the oil out of the water by relying on phase separation under gravity actually doesn’t work all that well – so maybe this is more useful than I realised.¯_(ツ)_/¯

  4. it’s an interesting process. but seems more trouble than it’s worth.

    presumedly you’d have to have some sort of ship or collection vessel to scoop up sea water. to then do this process in some large vat or tank. but at that point… wouldn’t some method to simply filter/screen the water be better.

    it is always amazing kids can think up this stuff. simple but effective method

  5. I knew the answer would be some sort of magnetic attraction. Not necessarily metal magnets just some sort of attraction. I am so glad we found a starting point. I can’t wait to see how this knowledge progresses.

  6. This is very interesting and I’d like to see his report regarding the mechanical properties of what is occuring however, I can’t help but rationalize how horrible of a process this would be large scale. So we’re going to “rinse” waste water with oil and ferrite particles and then what? Microplastics are horrible but what do we do with this solution of oil, plastic, and ferrite when all is said and done? Is inevitably dumping metal particulate into the ocean really a solution?

    There is no doubt a level of ingenuity to this project, but it seems far more comparable to a student suggesting we just light the oil leaking into the ocean on fire, then no more oil. Doesn’t do a good job at keeping the big picture in frame.

  7. Yeah I’m not so sure that placing an oil of any type in the ocean or other bodies of water is a good thing. Thin films of oil can and do effect o2 transfer and organisms that require the ability to break the water surface barrier in order to survive. Mostly insects and micro life. I commend the idea for its creativity, but practical usage may be more harmful than not.

    Perhaps a centripetal/centrifugal approach would be best on a larger scale.

    Keep thinking creatively it is what will save the world.

  8. Seems like something so simple but on a large scale could be a pain to maintain. You would need to bring in the water, introduce the ferro fluid, use an electromagnet (normal magnets would work like in the experiment but wouldn’t be as quick), clean off the electro magnet of the ferro fluid, then repeat the cycle til the ferro fluid is too dirty to use again, then figure out a way to either clean the ferro fluid of the micro plastics or just dump it and start over fresh.

    Not to down this experiment, and I’m no scientist, it is really cool and the simplicity is amazing, but it does seem like it would just exchange dirty water for dirty ferro fluid which just makes more waste. But maybe I just don’t know enough about the properties of ferro fluid.

  9. It wouldn’t be very efficient, having filtration plants lining the oceans and sending it back after would only begin to scrape the problem, as microplastics have been found at the depths of the ocean, and as you put the clean water back in the ocean, it will get mixed with microplastics again, causing less plastic per ounce or however they would measure that sort of thing, most of the water would probably just end up cycling between the filtration systems and the nearby ocean, then repeat the process.

  10. Is that toner? Toner is… magnetic. They should ask for their 50k back.

    Edit: Is there audio I am missing? What is supposed to be happening here.

  11. Can they clean up oil in this manner as well?

    I don’t know if this would work on drinking water or what the implications of this in metal pipes or filters would be, but if you can clean up oil spills in this manner it might be game changing.

  12. In high school I figured out that if you tie a towel in the middle its much easier to repetitively snap people in the ass because you dont have to wind the towel up…Where is my 50k?

  13. If people wonder what the future of AI is, imagine this.

    A million solar-powered oceaniac “Roombas” using something like this to both extract plastic from the water as well as refine it into reusable plastic pellets. Or imagine a tireless army of cyborgs walking every beach and cleaning it up. Magic.

  14. ITT: “but but but fortnite kid won 3 million!”
    It’s almost like millions of people play and watch fortnite. When’s the last time you voluntarily went to a science fair? If you want change, make it happen. Go and support it.

  15. What all the naysayers and critics in this thread should be focusing on, instead of flexing on this 18 year old’s science project, is that many great innovations/inventions start with a small step in a direction. Seldom do people get something monumental right on the first try without a team of experienced people and a nice budget. They start with an idea that blossoms or sparks innovation that others can build upon to make the world better.

    It’s just sad to see people respond with “well ahcktually this won’t work in the real world cause dur dur dur”. Yes, maybe not in it’s current form, but all minor successes should be celebrated and used as a tool to advance. That’s what R&D is.

    That said, i have no idea what this is or could achieve and may be nothing more but an interesting experiment, but the creativity can be celebrated.

  16. Let me get this straight…

    To remove one pollutant, you have to use two other pollutants (oil and ferro-fluids) and electricity….

    Although it appears to work in the ‘laboratory’ with water, how does it work in sea water, and what are the ‘scale up’ costs to use it in real world scenarios of cleaning the oceans of the millions of tons of micro-plastics?

    And I find it hard to believe that no other highly qualified scientist anywhere in the world knew about this method of cleaning pollutants from water…


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