Sunday 18 August 2019

Irish student Fionn Ferreira scoops €45k global science award with project to save the seas from microplastics

Fionn Ferreira
Fionn Ferreira
BTYS 2018 Winner: Fionn Ferreira
Vint Cerf
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

An Irish student has won a global science award - including €45,000 in prize money - with a project aimed at saving the world’s oceans from the growing problem of microplastics.

Fionn Ferreira, who sat his Leaving Cert in June, was named as the overall winner at the Google Science Fair, an annual online science and technology competition for students aged between 13 and 18 that attracts thousands of entries.

The 18-year-old was the only European among 24 finalists from 14 countries in Google HQ in California for the event, a partnership with Virgin Galactic, Lego Education, and magazines National Geographic and Scientific American. The Fair has been running annually since 2011.
Vint Cerf

Living by the sea in west Cork, Mr Ferreira is well aware of the effects of plastic pollution on beaches. In his search for a solution, he discovered that there no filtering of microplastics in any European wastewater treatment centre.

His investigations led him to ferrofluid, a magnetic liquid used to clean up oil spills. He adapted it and says his tests have show that his version of the liquid now removes at least 87pc of plastic particles.

His winning project was titled “An investigation into the removal of microplastics from water using ferrofluids".

“ I'm looking forward to applying my findings and contributing towards a solution in tacking microplastics in our oceans worldwide,” said the former pupil of Schull Community College, Co Cork.

Mr Ferreira 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 also works as a curator at the Schull Planetarium, has won 12 science fair awards, speaks three languages fluently and plays the trumpet at orchestra level.

Vint Cerf, vice-president and chief internet evangelist at Google, said they had challenged students to channel their curiosity and ingenuity to invent, code, or build a solution to a problem they’re passionate about.

He said each entry “was an impressive, original contribution that has real-world implications for some of the world’s toughest problems”.

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