Groundbreaking research by a team of Exeter students has resulted in the development of a “smart filter” to break down plastic microfibres that come off clothes in washing machines. The filter uses enzymes to break down plastic into by-products that are safe to be released into the water system.
At present, every wash cycle releases hundreds of thousands of fibres – and more than a third of microplastics in the oceans are thought to originate from clothing.
Ten Exeter students were on the team which developed the filter. They are now working with partners including washing machine producer Miele to put the filter into production.
The filter can be designed to fit the outlet of household washing machines. Researchers say it catches approximately three quarters of these fibres and breaks them down. Because the microfibres are so small, they are able to be fully degraded much more easily between washes.
The team members along with the project’s sponsors and supporters (including Google, SnapGene, IDT and XEROS,) will also be meeting with government officials in November.
In addition to the filter, an app is currently being developed which will help people monitor and manage their filter. Although the current focus is washing machines, there is the possibility that a similar concept could be introduced in places such as clothing plants or water treatment facilities.
The team will be showcasing its filter at a synthetic biology competition taking place in Boston in November.
The team members are: Lydia Pike, Dragos Dumitrescu, Adriano Matousek, Jonathan Bailey, Ceilidh Welsh, Rachael Quintin-Baxendale, Chloe Matthews, Jess Billington, Jonathan Elliott and John Felipe Murphy.
Interested in being part of the groundbreaking research which takes place at the University of Exeter? Applying from Canada? Contact Barclay Educational Services for program information and application assistance. As a recognized Canadian agent of Exeter, there is NO CHARGE to students for our application help. Our fee is paid by the school. Email Jackie at JSB@barclayedu.com