Device captures microplastic pollution from tyre wear
A new wheel-fitted apparatus by technology startup, The Tyre Collective, can help reduce both plastic and air contamination produced out of vehicles.
The amount of electric vehicles on our streets is growing exponentially — thanks to decreasing costs, longer driving ranges, and other technology improvements. With this, in reaction to environmental issues, many towns and areas around the world intend to apply outright bans on traditional petrol and diesel-powered vehicles in the next five to ten years.
But, zero-emission vehicles aren’t entirely green. Even though 100% of cars, buses, trucks, and motorcycles switched to battery-electric or hydrogen fuel cells, then that would still leave the problem of microplastic contamination generated from tyre wear. This happens because of friction, whenever a driver has to brake, accelerate, or turn a corner. Many particles are swept into rivers and oceans, impacting ecosystems and ultimately our own food chain, causing further wellness difficulties. After single-use vinyl, tyre wear is the second biggest microplastic pollutant in our oceans.
For a sense of perspective, the number 9 bus at London releases about 4.65g (0.17 oz) of those particles per travel and 65g (2.3 oz) per day. The amount for Europe as a whole is 530,000 tons yearly, while in the U.S. an estimated 1.8 million tons are produced annually (the highest per capita amount worldwide ). Research by the Dutch Open University estimates that particulate matter from tyres is responsible for 130,000 to 300,000 deaths globally.
Regardless of their reputation, electric vehicles have been projected to boost PM2.5 emissions, due to additional battery torque and weight. UK government data indicates growth in PM2.5 emissions of up to 25% by 2030.
Charge: The Tyre Collective
Recognizing the scale of this issue, but also the opportunities it presented, a set of pupils at Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art established”The Tyre Collective” — a new startup whose mission is to make cities healthier by mitigating tyre wear emissions. The team of four combined their skills in various regions of engineering and design to make the innovative device seen here.
“It is common knowledge that tyres wear down, but nobody seems to consider where it goes, and we’re very shocked to discover tyre particles are the second-largest microplastic pollutant in our oceans. In the Tyre Collectivewe integrate sustainable and circular values to product design to catch tyre wear at the origin.”
Their prototype apparatus, exploiting the properties of electrostatics and airflow around a wheel, can capture 60 percent of microplastic particles. As explained in their movie below, these can be reused in several applications — such as new tyres or substances — producing a closed-loop system. The team demonstrated this by printing their business cards using ink made from collected tyre dust.
The Tyre Collective plans to bring people across areas and industries together, by creating a worldwide network of partnerships and collaborations. They are presently working with some of the largest tyre and automobile makers in the world to develop their technologies further. Before this season, the team won the Moonshot Prize at Imperial College’s Venture Catalyst Challenge. Also, they won the Mayor of London’s Entrepreneurship Programme. This week, the team reached first place at the 2020 James Dyson Award.