High school whiz kids invent a device that can filter microplastics from water

High school whiz kids invent a device that can filter microplastics from water

By Ashmeeta Subra  July 5th, 2024

Two 17-year-olds have won USD50,000 for inventing a device that uses ultrasonic sound waves to filter microplastics from water.


Microplastics are tiny plastic particles that pollute water sources and cause significant health risks to humans and wildlife. Unfortunately, traditional microplastics filtration methods can sometimes fall short due to high costs, slow processes or the use of harmful chemicals.   

Victoria Ou and Justin Huang from The Woodlands College Park High School in Texas have won a huge prize for their potential solution to the microplastics issue. They showcased an invention designed to filter such particles from water, earning them the esteemed Gordon E. Moore Award for Positive Outcomes for Future Generations and a USD50,000 (AUD74,904.25) scholarship prize.   

The two students presented their groundbreaking project at the 2024 International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF); a device that operates by using ultrasound waves to push microplastic particles to one side of a water flow, allowing clean water to pass through while trapping the contaminants. In their tests, the system successfully captured up to 94 per cent of microplastic particles, showing promise for real-world applications.  

"If we could refine this, maybe use more professional equipment, maybe go to a lab instead of testing from our home, we could really improve our device and get it ready for large-scale manufacturing," Justin told Business Insider.  

The duo envisioned their device being used in water treatment plants, directly modifying the quality of water for daily use. This application could significantly reduce the amount of microplastics that end up in water sources, protecting ecosystems and human health.  

They also see a potential for their device to be incorporated into household laundry machines. Synthetic textile particles from laundry contribute to around 35 per cent of primary microplastics pollution. By filtering out these particles before the water is discharged, their device could prevent a substantial amount of microplastics from entering the environment. This approach tackles the problem at its source, offering a proactive solution to a pervasive issue. 

In our previous article, we’ve shared filtering solutions currently available on the Australian market and actions we can take to help reduce microplastics and pollutants entering waterways.  

Image credits to Society for Science/Chris Ayers.

Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.


Positive Actions

Ashmeeta Subra

With background in international relations and marketing communications, Ashmeeta is excited to use her skills to encourage positive environmental actions through Planet Ark. She believes that by taking small actions, we can help make a big difference and be good stewards of our planet. Outside of work, she loves spending time in nature and enjoying downtime at the beach.

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