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Irish Environmentalist Named Finalist for Young Inventors Prize for Magnetic Solution to Removing Microplastics From Water

21st June 2023
Fionn Ferreira
Fionn Ferreira has created a way to remove microplastics from water with a unique mixture utilising the magnetic properties of ferrofluid Credit: EPO

An Irish postgraduate’s novel solution to removing microplastics from water has landed him on the shortlist for a prestigious European prize.

Fionn Ferreira, a chemistry Master’s degree student and teaching assistant at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, has created a way to remove microplastics from water using a unique mixture.

And the 22-year-old has been named as one of three finalists for the second edition of the Young Inventors Prize, which the European Patent Office (EPO) established to inspire the next generation of inventors.

The prize recognises young innovators aged 30 or under who have developed technological solutions to tackle global problems and help reach the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Ferreira’s invention contributes to UN SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation, as it supports the sustainable management of water resources, wastewater and ecosystems.

Ferreira’s method to remove microplastics from water is simple yet effective. His invention uses ferrofluid, a magnetic liquid mixture, which binds to microplastic particles, separating them from water and allowing for their removal using magnets.

The latest prototype, supported by Robert Downey Jr’s Footprint Coalition, removes over 85% of microplastics in a single pass and can be used safely in drinking water. The process does not require filters and produces zero waste. It retains nearly all the magnetic liquid while removing microplastics.

The collected microplastics can be outsourced for future recycling possibilities, making the process environmentally friendly. Ferreira is currently working with the University of Texas in scaling his invention to a commercial model.

‘The pursuit of a microplastic-free future is a noble and essential cause that demands our attention and action’

Hailing from a family of boat builders in Co Cork, Ferreira says was inspired to create his invention when he noticed the amount of plastic by the sea near his home.

“I was utterly horrified by the massive amount of plastic that has amassed on the shore,” he says. “The severity of the situation was overwhelming, and I felt an intense sense of urgency to comprehend the grave risks it poses.

“The fact that these plastics disintegrate into minuscule fragments, ultimately infiltrating our food chain and water, is having a devastating effect on our health. This is a stark reminder of the dire consequences of our actions.”

Ferreira founded Fionn & Co. LLC to perfect his invention, partnering with Stress Engineering Services to fine-tune, build and test his design. Currently pursuing a Master’s degree in chemistry, Ferreira teaches tutorials in Concepts of Chemistry and Engineering as a teaching assistant at the University of Groningen.

He is also developing several children’s television series and working on his first children’s book with hopes of inspiring and igniting young people’s interest in becoming inventors.

As Ferreira explains: “The pursuit of a microplastic-free future is a noble and essential cause that demands our attention and action. Everyone who commits to this cause is doing immeasurable good for our planet, and there is no limit to the good that can be achieved when we work together”.

The Young Inventors Prize winner will be announced at the European Inventor Award 2023 hybrid ceremony on Tuesday 4 July in Valencia, Spain which will be broadcast online (register HERE). Team

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Marine Science Perhaps it is the work of the Irish research vessel RV Celtic Explorer out in the Atlantic Ocean that best highlights the essential nature of marine research, development and sustainable management, through which Ireland is developing a strong and well-deserved reputation as an emerging centre of excellence. From Wavebob Ocean energy technology to aquaculture to weather buoys and oil exploration these pages document the work of Irish marine science and how Irish scientists have secured prominent roles in many European and international marine science bodies.


At A Glance – Ocean Facts

  • 71% of the earth’s surface is covered by the ocean
  • The ocean is responsible for the water cycle, which affects our weather
  • The ocean absorbs 30% of the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere by human activity
  • The real map of Ireland has a seabed territory ten times the size of its land area
  • The ocean is the support system of our planet.
  • Over half of the oxygen we breathe was produced in the ocean
  • The global market for seaweed is valued at approximately €5.4 billion
  • · Coral reefs are among the oldest ecosystems in the world — at 230 million years
  • 1.9 million people live within 5km of the coast in Ireland
  • Ocean waters hold nearly 20 million tons of gold. If we could mine all of the gold from the ocean, we would have enough to give every person on earth 9lbs of the precious metal!
  • Aquaculture is the fastest growing food sector in the world – Ireland is ranked 7th largest aquaculture producer in the EU
  • The Atlantic Ocean is the second largest ocean in the world, covering 20% of the earth’s surface. Out of all the oceans, the Atlantic Ocean is the saltiest
  • The Pacific Ocean is the largest ocean in the world. It’s bigger than all the continents put together
  • Ireland is surrounded by some of the most productive fishing grounds in Europe, with Irish commercial fish landings worth around €200 million annually
  • 97% of the earth’s water is in the ocean
  • The ocean provides the greatest amount of the world’s protein consumed by humans
  • Plastic affects 700 species in the oceans from plankton to whales.
  • Only 10% of the oceans have been explored.
  • 8 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean each year, equal to dumping a garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute.
  • 12 humans have walked on the moon but only 3 humans have been to the deepest part of the ocean.

(Ref: Marine Institute)

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