Collective creates device to collect bits shed by tires

British grad students want to clean the roads, and the air and water and created an award-winning device to do so

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Tyre Collective
Device created by British grad students gathers up particles shed by friction between tires and the road surface | The Tyre Collective photos

If you watch an auto race, especially those taking place on paved oval tracks, by race’s end you can see an accumulation of material that has been scrubbed by friction from the race cars’ tires. Although it might be less noticeable, a much more significant amount of such material is being shed daily by vehicles on public roads around the world.

In fact, a British start up, The Tyre Collective, reports that tire wear “is the second-largest microplastic pollutant in our ocean after single-use plastic.” As if that isn’t bad enough, it adds the such material “accounts for up to 50 percent of PM2.5 (particulate matter) emission from road transport.”

Prototype used in developing the device

“Tires wear out from friction every time we brake, accelerate or turn a corner,” the collective reports. “The particles become airborne affecting our lungs. More are swept into our waterways and oceans eventually entering our food chain.”

Responding to the above information and to a UK government call to action in 2019, the four members of the collective — each a graduate student with specialized skills, from biology to engineering — set out to remedy the situation and have created a device that recently won the UK National James Dyson Award for its device, which is designed for first use by fleet-vehicle operators.

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After discerning that because of friction with the road surface, the bits being shed by tires have a positive electrical charge, the group created a device that attracts and collects those particles. The device — the prototype looks like a very strange mud shield — is positioned immediately behind each tire. The collective notes that the material collected by the device can be recycled. 

For more information, visit The Tyre Collective and Dyson Award websites.

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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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