Environment

Prototype device gathers microplastics from car tires

Prototype device gathers micro...
The device is designed to mount on the car's steering knuckle
The device is designed to mount on the car's steering knuckle
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Vehicles could be equipped with one device per wheel
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Vehicles could be equipped with one device per wheel
The device is designed to mount on the car's steering knuckle
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The device is designed to mount on the car's steering knuckle
The device collects rubber particles via electrostatic attraction
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The device collects rubber particles via electrostatic attraction
The device's removable storage unit
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The device's removable storage unit
The Collective's testing rig
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The Collective's testing rig
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While we may think of car exhaust as being a major source of air pollution, automobile tires also hugely contribute to microplastics pollution. A new vehicle-mounted device could help, by gathering the rubber particles that those tires shed.

By definition, microplastics are fragments of plastic smaller than 5 millimeters in diameter. Along with coming from car tires, they're also produced as chunks of plastic waste break down into smaller pieces; as the microbeads used in products such as toothpaste enter the environment; or even as synthetic clothing sheds fibers while being washed.

Upon entering waterways, the particles may subsequently be eaten by fish, which are in turn consumed by humans. In the case of the tire-rubber microplastics, which are found mostly on city streets, they can also be inhaled.

A team of British arts and sciences students, known as The Tyre Collective, decided to do something about the latter. The project was led by the students (MA and MSc students studying Innovation Design Engineering at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London), and advised by Prof. Robert Shorten from Imperial College. They developed a prototype device that sits adjacent to a car's tire, close to where it touches the road.

It's mounted on the vehicle's steering knuckle. Needless to say, automobiles could be equipped with one device per wheel.

The device's removable storage unit
The device's removable storage unit

As the tire rolls, charged rubber particles fly off of it and are collected electrostatically within the device's storage unit. That unit is in turn periodically removed and emptied, so the fragments can be recycled.

According to the Collective, particles smaller than 50 microns could subsequently be used in the production of new tires. Possible uses for the larger fragments include 3D-printing media, soundproofing materials, inks and dyes.

The prototype has already been tested on a stationary lab-based rig, that subjects tires to the sort of friction they would experience while in use on the road. Team member Hanson Cheng tells us that they hope to commercialize the technology as soon as possible.

The project received support from InnovationRCA.

Source: The Tyre Collective via Designboom

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3 comments
guzmanchinky
This seems, well, cumbersome. Maybe I'm wrong but we should focus more on creating tires that are more recyclable, or airless tires where only the tread needs replaced instead of the whole tire?
Joe Boatman
Great idea. I'd like to know how it works and how much particulates are collected per 100 miles.
mediabeing
Interesting...the idea that this might be built in to future cars. Millions of vacuum cleaners on the road.