Capturing tire particles

The Tyre Collective, consisting of students from the Innovation Design Engineering programme of the Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art in the UK, designed a device that captures tire particles to reduce microplastic pollution.

Every time a vehicle brakes, accelerates or turns a corner, the tires wear down. Tiny particles become airborne, adding to the microplastic pollution problem as they wash away in waterways and oceans, as the second largest microplastic pollutant after single-use plastic. Electronic vehicles will reduce exhaust emissions, but still add to tire wear pollution, even more than non-electric vehicles due their heavy batteries. It is estimated that tire wear accounts for nearly half of road transport particulate emissions. In Europe alone, tires produce half a million tonnes of tire particles per year. The No. 9 London bus, for instance, on average releases 4.65g per journey and a total of 65g a day.

The Tyre Collective, consisting of Siobhan Anderson, Hanson Cheng, M Deepak Mallya, and Hugo Richardson, aims to reduce this relatively unknown form of pollution. They discovered that the particles are charged from friction as they fly off the tires. Utilising this fact, they designed a device that is fitted to the wheel and uses electrostatics to collect particles as they are emitted from the tires. The device is positioned close to where the tire tuches the road, taking advantage of various air flows around a spinning wheel. The captured particles are collected on a removable storage unit.

According to the collective, the prototype can collect 60% of all airborne particles from tires in a controlled setting. Once captured, the particles can be recycled as new tires or in other materials like ink. As proof of concept, The Tyre Collective printed their business cards with tire wear-based ink. Other applications include 3D printing or soundproofing.

The project was awarded as the International Runner-up in the James Dyson Awards 2020.

Images: The Tyre Collective