The Ocean Cleanup project's Boyan Slat has revealed a notable design improvement and set a Pacific deployment target for the first half of 2018, a full two years ahead of schedule.

Young Dutch entrepreneur Boyan Slat founded his Ocean Cleanup project when he was just 17 years old in an effort to help rid the world's oceans of plastic debris. Now, just five years later, Slat has revealed a newly designed extraction process that he claims will be able to remove half of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in just five years.

The original vision of the company was to set up fixed long floating arms across the ocean's surface that use the natural currents to collect up plastic debris. A pilot project set up in the North Sea last year resulted in the system failing within two-months of being set up. But the team learned valuable lessons from the in situ experiment and redesigned the system.

Initially conceived as an expansive floating arm fixed to the seabed, the newly announced design incorporates smaller floating arms that are mobile, weighed down by sea anchors. The team identified that while the new system would move with natural currents, by laying the anchors at a certain depth it would move at a much slower rate that the surface currents that carry the plastics.

The new design is reported to have significant benefits on the older fixed design, from being able to naturally move and rotate with the currents, improving the efficiency of its collective capacity, to reducing the environmental forces it needs to withstand by drifting with natural weather conditions.

The "Next Phase" announcement comes on the back of the company's revelation that it has successfully raised US$21.7 million in donations since last November. A variety of big-time donors have jumped on board this ambitious venture including San Francisco-based philanthropists Marc and Lynne Benioff and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Peter Thiel.

The company is set to deploy a pilot of the new design off the American west coast later in 2017 with plans to move into the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the first half of 2018.

Take a look at a simulation of the new deployment plan in the video below.

View gallery - 9 images