If you thought single-use plastic was the only plastic pollutant in our water and air, think again. The microplastics emitted from car tires are the second-largest microplastic pollutant in our seas. But how can we control the microplastics emission from car tires? Four students pursuing a degree jointly run by Imperial College London and Royal College of Art have come up with a solution to this problem. And the invention even got them the prestigious James Dyson Award!
The group calls themselves The Tyre Collective. Siobhan Anderson, Hanson Cheng, M Deepak Mallya, and Hugo Richardson are all graduates of the Innovation Design Engineering MA/MSc program. They told The Guardian, “As a team, our strength lies in our diversity. We come from all four corners of the globe and bring with us a wealth of knowledge in mechanical engineering, product design, architecture and biomechanics.”
The Tyre Collective Against Microplastics Emission
We all know tires wear down but where does it all go? There are no chunks lying around! Every time a car screeches or turns the corner, tiny plastic particles of the tires become airborne. This friction-caused microplastics emission produces over 500,000 tonnes of microparticles annually in Europe.
To curb this problem, the device designed by The Tyre Collective can be fixed to car tires. It used electrostatics in order to collect the microplastics emission. The airflow around an active tire helps the device collect it. The prototype tested by the students managed to collect 60% of all microplastics emissions from tires. This testing was done on a test rig in a controlled environment.
The collected fragments can be reused to make new tires that would create a closed-loop system. The Tyre Collective has used tire dust to create ink, and that ink was used to print their business cards! Other areas of application would be soundproofing and 3D printing.
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The problem of microplastics emission will worsen as electric cars become more common. With their heavier bodies, the tires will wear down much faster, contributing to the pollution. If The Tyre Collective’s invention is adopted on a bigger scale, this problem can be managed to an extent.
The James Dyson Award is awarded to imaginative design solutions to global problems with the environment in mind. The Tyre Collective’s invention won the UK leg and will be entering the international stage too.
Image: The Tyre Collective