Device to Capture Microplastics From Tires Wins Design Award
This year, the UK National James Dyson Award went to a team of student designers who want to reduce the environmental impact of car tires.
The Tyre Collective designed a simple device that collects microplastics as they fly off a car tire. As the group of designers explains it, their device helps on the path toward zero emissions by using electrostatic and airflow around the tire to capture the microplastics and other small particles that are shed over the lifetime of a tire.
As Autocar in the UK reported, the team says that their design is capable of catching up 60 percent of the particles shed by tires, which is significant considering that tires are one of the largest sources of ocean microplastics, according to a study in Nature Communications. That study found that tiny particles shed by tires and brake pads account for roughly 550,000 tons of microplastics that pollute the oceans annually. From that, over 80,000 tons rain down on remote areas covered in ice and snow, which helps accelerate the rate of melting, as The Guardian reported.
"Everyone focuses on air pollution being directly from the engines themselves and coming out of the exhaust pipe but what people don't necessarily recognize is that tire wear is a huge contributor to that," said Hugo Richardson, one of the members of The Tyre Collective, as Reuters reported.
Richardson is one of a team of four students from Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art who make up The Tyre Collective. Richardson and the three other students, Siobhan Anderson, Hanson Cheng and M. Deepak Mallya, say they share a passion to use design in a way that advances environmental causes, according to The Guardian.
"As a team, our strength lies in our diversity," said Richardson, as The Guardian reported. "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."
As the world moves toward more renewable energy and the technology of electric vehicles improves, a device like this may play an important role in making cars more environmentally friendly. That's due to the fact that electric vehicles do not solve the problem of tire pollution. In fact, they may make it worse since electric vehicles are usually heavier than cars with internal combustion engines, according to Autocar.
"We were unanimously drawn to The Tyre Collective for their creative innovation around this urgent issue of microplastic shedding from tires," said Sophie Thomas, one of the judges of the James Dyson award, according to Autocar. "This collaborative, multidisciplinary team questioned and challenged, building an approach that demonstrates the crucial role of design and enquiry when we search for solutions to these global problems."
The tiny particles that the designers created can be recycled to make new tires, ink or other materials, according to Autocar. Right now, the design is just a prototype, but the team hopes to use its £2,000 (approximately $2600) reward toward finding a way to scale up its product sustainably.
"In the future it could be integrated into the wheel arch or even into the mud flap behind the wheel," said Siobhan Anderson from the The Tyre Collective team, as Reuters reported.
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The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.
"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."
The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.
They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.
They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.
But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.
"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.
What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.
It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.
To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.
First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.
Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.
University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.
"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."
Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.
"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.
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In 'Road Map for a More Sustainable Future,' NY Regulator Tells Banks to Consider Climate Risks in Planning
By Brett Wilkins
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