​​Fionn Ferreira​

​​Removing microplastics from water​

Young Inventors Prize
Technical field
Environmental technology
​​Fionn & Co. LLC / Green Journey Coalition Inc​
​​Twenty-two-year-old environmentalist Fionn Ferreira is tackling microplastics pollution with his magnet-based method, which extracts microplastics from water quickly, safely and without harm.​

Second runner-up in the Young Inventors Prize

Growing up near the Irish coast in a family of boat builders, Ferreira’s deep connection to the sea fuelled his passion for cleaning water and that inspired him to find a solution to the problem. “The severity of the situation was overwhelming, and I felt an intense sense of urgency to comprehend the grave risks it poses. The fact that these plastics disintegrate into minuscule fragments, ultimately infiltrating our food chain and water, is having a devastating effect on our health.” 

His innovative solution for removing microplastics from water involves a unique ferrofluid mixture, in other words a magnetic liquid. Unlike other methods, Ferreira’s process produces zero waste and does not require any filters nor chemicals. The magnetic liquid binds to microplastic particles, separating them from water sources and allowing for their removal using magnets. The process retains nearly all of the magnetic liquid, which can be reused, while removing microplastics. Importantly, Ferreira’s microplastic removal process can be safely used on drinking water, making it a potential game-changer in this field. 

Scaling up the operation 

Fionn Ferreira began studying chemistry in 2019 at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. Throughout his studies, Ferreira continued to develop his invention and began entering his work in various fairs and competitions. He clinched a victory in the renowned Google Science Fair, catapulting his invention into the media spotlight.  

With the help of Robert Downey Jr. and his Footprint Coalition, Ferreira’s method has been prototyped and continuously improved, now removing over 85% of microplastics in a single pass. Moreover, Fionn Ferreira has been working with the University of Texas to adapt his method to water treatment facilities universally. The biggest challenge in collecting microplastics is that they contain various types, colours, and qualities of plastic, which makes recycling difficult. Ferreira aims to collect the microplastics and outsource them for future recycling.  

In 2020, he founded both Fionn & Co. LLC and the Green Journey Coalition Inc. to continue his mission of cleaning the world’s oceans and preserving the environment. Ferreira is a scientist and innovator committed to making a positive impact on the world: “The pursuit of a microplastic-free future is a noble and essential cause that demands our attention and action. Everyone who commits to this cause is doing immeasurable good for our planet, and there is no limit to the good that can be achieved when we work together.” 

Towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDG) 

UN Sustainable Development Goal 6 logo

Ferreira’s invention contributes to UN SDG 6 (Clean water and sanitation) as it aims to support the sustainable management of water resources, wastewater and ecosystems and improve water quality by reducing pollution.