There are plenty of influential kids today all over the world. Just recently, much to the dismay of those who refuse to believe in climate change, Greta Thurnberg was named Time Magazine’s Person Of The Year 2018. Greta is a teenage girl with Asperger’s syndrome and has been very vocal about her desire for the world to make changes now to save our planet for the future. When Time Magazine honored her with this title, she was immediately bullied online by Donald Trump and his son. Donald Trump refuses to accept that fact that climate change is real, despite the scientific evidence. The idea of the President of the United States trolling a young girl who is just trying to make the world a better place is deplorable. It just goes to show what a danger he is to the U.S. Another influential youngster is Fionn Ferreira.
Fionn is an 18-year-old boy from a village called, Ballydehob in County Cork, Ireland. He may be a teenager, but he isn’t your average teenager. He is already an accomplished scientist. This teen came up with a game-changing invention that NASA probably wishes it had thought of first.
Like Greta, Fionn is worried about the environment. He placed his focus on a very serious problem that our planet is facing today, microplastics. For years, it was believed that facial scrubs and cosmetics were putting microplastics in the water. While a very small amount of microplastics come from these products, the real problem is pollution. Plastic bags, plastic containers, and other pollutants in the water break down. When this happens, it causes microplastics. These are small particles of plastic that are smaller than 5mm. This is very small, and may not seem harmful, but they are. When these particles are found in the waters, the fish consume them, which results in humans being exposed to the microplastics when we eat the fish. There are likely more dangers of microplastics that we don’t yet know. Because these particles are so small, they cannot be adequately filtered. Fionn decided to find another way to extract the microplastic from the water.
An Idea Is Born
One day, Fionn was out on the sea in his kayak. While on the water, he noticed an oil-covered rock, and attached to it were microplastic fragments. He wondered if he could create something similar but on a larger scale to harness and filter microplastics from the water. Fionn already knew that scientists are worried about the impact that microplastics have on humans, and seeing the oil-covered rock sparked an idea.
Using a NASA Invention
In 1963, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) invented a ferrofluid, which is a liquid that has magnetic properties. Fionn started to wonder if he could use the substance to gather and remove microplastics from the water.
Creating a Home Lab
Fionn decided to set up a lab at home to try to prove his theory. While setting up his home lab, he used improvised equipment. Using a combination of magnetite powder and cooking oil, he managed to make his own ferrofluid. During his experiments, he managed to prove that the fluid combined well with the microplastics. He figured that he could use a magnet after to remove the pollutant. He performed extensive testing, which involved him performing over 1,000 experiments. He completed his experiments in a test tube and found that his method was 87 percent effective. He proved that there is a chance if his method is scaled up to an industrial level, he found a way to remove microplastics from the water.
Fionn decided to take his work to the Google Science Fair in 2019. He figured that he could prove to the world that this method could be useful in cleaning up the Earth’s oceans while earning some money for college. He won the Grand Prize and was awarded $50,000. Fionn says that it isn’t the money that drew him to participate in the science fair. He wants established scientists to see his work so that it can be created on a larger scale. Just winning the science far won’t be enough for Fionn. He won’t be happy until his method is put into use to start cleaning up our planet’s oceans.
Our Planet’s Future
We are lucky that we have kids in this world like Fionn and Greta. They may just be in their teens, but they are making huge strides in saving our planet. These two kids, and others like them, want a safe place to grow up and to have families of their own. Greta works hard to get people to understand the damage that we are doing to our planet, and Fionn is working hard to find ways to repair the damage that has already been done.