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Valencia students' 'micro-plastic sea filter' wins top design award
By thinkSPAIN Team Tue, Dec 10, 2019
A GROUP of students at Valencia Polytechnic have won the prestigious James Dyson Award for their planet-saving invention: a buoy which filters and traps micro-plastics in the sea.
Defined as pieces of plastic of less than half a centimetre in size (a fifth of an inch), micro-plastics are frequently swallowed by fish, birds and other sea creatures, and find their way into human stomachs through drinking water and eating seafood, fish and seaweed.
The 'Yuna' uses different-sized netting and an aerodynamic structure inspired by the physical makeup and anatomy of the ocean sunfish (Mola Mola) – the world's heaviest fish at an average of a tonne and which gets its name because it basks on the sea surface to allow sea birds to eat parasites from its skin.
The ocean sunfish changes shape to adapt to different currents in the sea, which the Yuna buoy is also designed to do, says one of the team, Alice Ville.
All 20 of the 'Yu Group', as the students are known, are studying degrees in design engineering and product development, and will share the €2,200 prize which comes with the James Dyson Award.
Alice Ville says the buoy 'needs very little energy supply' to filter out micro-plastics, since it 'spins with the current, like a yacht sail' to pick up tiny shards of plastic waste which are then stored inside it for later disposal.
The multiple filters are stacked from the ones with the widest holes on the outside to the finest on the inside, the latter being capable of trapping even microscopic pieces of plastic.
Once the buoy is full, the plastic is emptied and recycled, and the buoy is returned to the sea.
Photograph: Valencia Polytechnic (UPV)
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