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Student Invention Captures Tire Pollutants

Credit: The Tyre Collective/Reuters

Because nobody likes breathing an entire car tire.

The image of a souped-up car peeling out down a highway is super cool, I don’t think anyone’s going to fight me on that. But what you may not know is that when cars roll down the road, brake, or turn, tiny particles of rubber are constantly being shaved off the tires. This is why your tires wear out after a while. This substance, known as tire dust, is a major contributor to both air and water pollution, especially in urban areas. In fact, tire dust is the second-largest source of microplastic pollution in the world, behind only single-use plastic products. That’s way too much pollution from a daily activity, which is why the Tyre Collective, a student group from the UK, have devised a solution.

The Tyre Collective’s invention is pretty straightforward: a small device is mounted to the front of a tire, wrapping closely around the edge. This device produces a static field that captures the tire dust as it shaves off, kind of like dust and hair gathering on a balloon. In a test trial, the Tyre Collective mounted the device to a stationary tire and got it spinning. By their estimates, the device managed to capture approximately 60% of the dust expelled from the tire. Not bad for a prototype.

Credit: The Tyre Collective

“I think we all realize 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,” Hugo Richardson, one of the collective’s members, said in an interview with Reuters.

In addition to cutting down microplastic pollution, the collective believes that their invention could have a positive impact on peoples’ health. Airborne rubber particles from tires have been linked to several lung diseases and developmental complications, so eliminating them can only be beneficial in the long run.

For their invention, the Tyre Collective was awarded this year’s James Dyson Award for the UK, an award for those who devise new problem-solving methods, and they’ll be entered into the international James Dyson Award circuit for November. Meanwhile, they’re in the process of secure a patent for their device and drawing up a startup company to sell it.