Each time a vehicle brakes, accelerates or turns a corner, its tyres send tiny rubber particles airborne which adds up to half a million tonnes of tyre dust annually in Europe alone, according to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (IJERPH).These tiny particles also contribute to dangerous road transport particulate emissions and microplastic pollution in water. A group of students from the UK have invented an award-winning way of trapping tyre dust at their source – their prototype device wraps closely around the edge of the tyre and by using the electrostatics/aerodynamics of a spinning wheel collects rubber particles as they are emitted.
Siobhan Anderson, one of the inventors and a member of the Innovation Design Engineering programme offered jointly by Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art explained that the tyreparticles can be easily inhaled and cause different lung diseases and even developmental issues.
“The particles can also enter our water systems and eventually make their way through our food chain and come back to us,” Anderson added.
The student inventors claimed their prototype can collect 60% of all airborne rubber particles from tyres under a controlled environment on their test rig and believes the device may soon become essential as electric vehicle usage and tyre emissions increase.
Another student inventor, Hugo Richardson, said the coronavirus lockdown, which reduced traffic significantly, had given people a glimpse of how clean a city’s air could be. “I think we all realise that clean air in our cities is not a pipedream any more, but something that is immediately achievable with some clever innovation and some impetus from those in charge.”
The invention will now progress to the international stage of the James Dyson Award, to be announced on Nov. 19.