College Students Invent Device That Curbs Microplastics Emitted From Tires–And They Won a Dyson Award

Microplastics emitted from vehicle tires as they wear down is a growing pollution problem. In fact, tire particles are the second-largest microplastic pollutant in our oceans.
Luckily, four students have come up with a solution to the issue—and it’s just been recognized as a national winner in the prestigious James Dyson Awards.

Every time a vehicle brakes, accelerates, or turns a corner, the tires wear down and tiny particles become airborne—producing half a million tonnes of tire particles annually in Europe alone.

According to a statement from Imperial College London—where the students who founded the Tyre Collective study Innovation Design Engineering in a course offered jointly with Royal College of Art—the team’s winning device is fitted to the wheel of the vehicle and uses electrostatics to collect charged particles as they fly off the tire.

Based on results from their test rig, the group believes their prototype can collect 60% of all airborne particles from tires.

Once collected, the fragments can be reused in new tires, or even in other materials such as ink.

The team is made up of four students from around the world: They are Siobhan Anderson, Hanson Cheng, M Deepak Mallya, and Hugo Richardson.

“As a team, our strength lies in our diversity,” Hugo Richardson explained to the Guardian. “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.”

While greater adoption of electric vehicles will help reduce exhaust emissions, tire dust will continue to contribute to air pollution. With wide-scale adoption of the Tyre Collective’s patent-pending technology, however, this problem can be much reduced.

The overall international winner of the James Dyson Award will be announced on October 17. We’ll be sure to share good news from the ceremony with you then.