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.”
“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.
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.