Wednesday 21 August 2019

Google Science Fair winner says West Cork seaside was inspiration for micro-plastic solution

BTYS 2018 Winner: Fionn Ferreira
BTYS 2018 Winner: Fionn Ferreira

Aoife Walsh

An Irish student who has won a global science award with a breakthrough project aimed at removing harmful micro-plastics from the ocean has said his hometown of West Cork was a 'true inspiration' behind his idea.

Fionn Ferreira (18) was named as the overall winner at the Google Science Fair/

He told of how living by the seaside in West Cork inspired him to find a solution for the grave impact plastic pollution is having on beaches.

After discovering that there was no filtering of micro-plastics in any European wastewater treatment centre, Fionn began experimenting with ferrofluid, a magnetic liquid used to clean up oil spills.

The student says his tests show that the liquid removed at least 87pc of plastic particles.

Speaking about his win, Fionn said he loves inspiring people to get involved in science.

 “I’ve inspired the judges with science too. And of course, this award will also include travel elements and there is several other trips involved with this award, and working closely with the partners of this competition - so Scientific American, National Geographic, Virgin Galactic, and of course, Lego too," he told RTÉ's Morning Ireland.

"I think just it’s an amazing honor to be selected for this. For me, personally, the greatest product of this award is actually just being made the finalist and just the recognition.

“My project is a new method to remove micro-plastics from water. It uses magnetic uses magnetic liquids, ferrofluid, and this ferrofluid sticks to these plastic particles allowing them to be removed just using magnets - so it’s kind of cool to watch.

"I’m just ready for it to be scaled up and used in wastewater treatment to remove microplastics because we all know this is a grave issue in Ireland and all over the world.

"For me anyway, it will definitely work. All of these partners of this competition, that’s their aim because they think it will work, I think it will work, and I think with just a bit on an umph, it doesn’t even need a cash injection, I think it just needs that recongnition.

He added: "I’m in West Cork, I’m right beside the seaside. I go kayaking, I go sailing that of course had a huge impact on the project. Here at the science fair I was always highlighting that West Cork was on of my true inspirations for this project."

The teen picked up €45,000 in prize money after winning the annual online science and technology competition for 13- to 18-year-olds.

Fionn, who sat his Leaving Cert in June, was the only European among the 24 finalists from 14 countries at Google's global headquarters in California for the event.

The former pupil of Schull Community College, Co Cork, has been a regular entrant in the BT Young Scientist Exhibition and has a minor planet named after him in recognition of his achievement at the 2018 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

He is set to attend University of Groningen in the Netherlands to study chemistry over the coming academic year.

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