An Irish schoolboy has made it to the global final of the annual Google Science Fair, the annual online science competition open to students between the ages of 13 and 18 from around the world.
Fionn Ferreira (18) from Ballydehob in West Cork will be flown to Google international headquarters in Mountain View, California, this July to compete in the largest science fair in the world. An alumnus of the BT Young Scientist Exhibition, Fionn is a student at Schull Community College who is about to sit his Leaving cert in June.
His project titled “An investigation into the removal of microplastics from water using ferrofluids” posits a novel way to filter microplastics from water by using magnets. It is one of 20 global finalists chosen from a shortlist of 100 regional entries competing for the top prize of a $50,000 bursary, with category winners each receiving $15,000 grants and exclusive STEM-related experiences.
The Google Science Fair has been running annually since 2011 and is held in partnership with Virgin Galactic, LEGO Education, National Geographic, and Scientific American.
In addition to becoming a finalist in one of the most prestigious STEM competitions for students, the 18 year old polymath is also about to undergo his Leaving Cert this June. Not content with an already busy schedule, Fionn also works as a curator at the Schull Planetarium, has won 12 science fair awards, speaks three languages fluently, plays the trumpet at orchestra level, and has even had a minor planet named after him by the MIT Lincoln Laboratory.
Speaking about the announcement, Fionn Ferreira said, “It’s an incredible honour to reach the global final of the Google Science Fair. My project came about as I was constantly hearing about plastic pollution on the news, and as I live by the sea in West Cork I was also seeing the real effects on our beaches every day. I discovered to my dismay that at present no screening or filtering for microplastics takes place in any European wastewater treatment centres, so I started looking around for a solution.
“Seeing that there was none I decided to investigate further, eventually finding a way to use ferrofluid, a magnetic liquid which sticks to the plastic allowing it to be removed using magnets. I was inspired by an article I read about how non-toxic iron oxide powder can be used to clean up oil spills by making a ferrofluid from the spilled oil. So to adapt this for microplastics I used a mixture of magnetite (iron oxide) and waste vegetable oil, and the resulting ferrofluid sticks to and attracts plastic particles. After over 1,000 tests I have proved that my method would remove 87% or higher of microplastics in sample tests.
“I can’t wait to get to Google HQ in California to talk about my project, and I look forward to applying my findings and contributing towards a solution in tacking microplastics in our oceans worldwide.”
Read more about “An investigation into the removal of microplastics from water using ferrofluids” here.