The Tyre Collective: Capturing microplastic particles from tyres

The Tyre Collective, the International Runner-up of the 2020 James Dyson Awards, has produced an ingenious device that captures tyre-wear particles at the wheel of a vehicle, to be recycled for future applications.

The Tyre Collective attempted to solve a relatively unknown problem, tyre wear. Every time a vehicle brakes, accelerates or turns a corner, the tyres wear down and tiny particles become airborne, producing half a million tonnes of tyre particles annually in Europe alone. These particles are small enough to become airborne and can have adverse effect on health. They account for up to 50% of PM2.5 pollution from road transport and will account 10% of all PM2.5 by 2030. More are swept into waterways and oceans, eventually, entering the food chain.

As we move towards electric vehicles in the future, exhaust emissions will reduce but tyre particles will continue to pollute the air and the wider environment. The team estimate that tyre emissions may even increase, as electric vehicles become heavier due to the added battery weight.

The Tyre Collective aims to reduce this invisible pollution by capturing the tyre particles at the source. The team’s device is fitted to the wheel and uses electrostatics to collect particles as they are emitted from the tyres, by taking advantage of various air flows around a spinning wheel. They claim that their prototype can collect 60% of all airborne particles from tyres, under a controlled environment on their test rig.

Once captured, the particles can be recycled and reused in new tyres or other materials such as ink. The Tyre Collective has demonstrated this by printing their business cards using ink made from collected tyre matter. Other creative applications include 3D printing, soundproofing or even in new tyre production, creating a closed loop system.

The Tyre Collective is made up of students from the Innovation Design Engineering MA/MSc programme, offered jointly by Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art. Siobhan Anderson, Hanson Cheng, M Deepak Mallaya, and Hugo Richardson came together through a passion to try and design for real social and environmental impact.

Richardson says: “As a team, our strength lies in our diversity. We come from all four corners of the globe and bring with us a wealth of knowledge in Mechanical Engineering, Product Design, Architecture and Biomechanics.

“We are passionate about the environment and trying to make a meaningful impact on society. It’s common knowledge that tyres wear down, but nobody seems to think about where it goes, and we were really shocked to discover that tyre particles are the second largest microplastic pollutant in our oceans. At the Tyre Collective we incorporate sustainable and circular values into product design to capture tear wear at the source.

“The ongoing coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have proven that clean air is no longer an unachievable dream.”

This year marked the 16th year of the James Dyson Award, and the 16th year of championing ground-breaking concepts in engineering and design. This year, the award has also seen its highest number of entrants in the Award’s history across all 27 participating nations.

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