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Cerritos High Student’s Project Could be a Solution to Removing Microplastics From the Ocean

ADARSH SENTHILNATHAN, 15, of Cerritos with his invention that could take microplastics out of the earth’s oceans.

October 13, 2023

By Laurie Hanson

With 24 trillion microplastics polluting the world’s oceans, a 15-year-old Junior from Cerritos High School has developed a viable prototype for extracting them. 

“Microplastic pollution is a serious problem that everyone is talking about, but no one is acting upon,” said Adarsh Senthilnathan of Cerritos. “I hope my solution sparks a new light within the industry that can help motivate other scientists to find new solutions instead of simply addressing and acknowledging the problem.”

His project prototype is entitled “Attraction of Microplastics using Transverse Waves and a Vortex.” Specifically, it focuses on removing the most common plastic pollutant, polyethylene, at a below-average size of two millimeters. 

 “I am not much of a genius or a whiz kid,” he explained. “I simply work extremely hard and am unwilling to give up until I reach my end goal.”

Adarsh desires to become well-rounded and successful in multiple areas of life, not just in one. This may be his first step in achieving this.

“Someday, I hope to be an entrepreneur and public figure spreading my ideas to the rest of the world as a renowned figure in the industry of life,” he said. “I hope my microplastic project will start a series of other projects that help save our environment.” 

Already recognized by the U.S. Naval Department of Research after entering his prototype in the Los Angeles County Science Fair and further attaining validation his “solution” is viable from a local university professor, Adarsh hopes to establish further credibility and go to work with other scientists. 

Ardarsh worked on the project for two years making nine different prototypes. All his efforts were simply researched on Google as he worked on different solutions.  

“This project was done and worked on completely by me,” he said. “However, I had assistance from Professor Mingheng Li to help guide me on what steps I should take and whether a projected prototype would work or not.”

According to Professor Li, who teaches Chemical and Materials at Cal Poly Pomona, Adarsh’s project is so valuable because it’s the entry-level step in any microplastic extraction. 

“Without this crucial step, scientists and other people trying to extract microplastics are simply going into the water blindly with their extraction method,” Li explained. 

“With Adarsh’s project, environmentalist groups can now focus on a specific area, helping increase average removal rates. Additionally, it would also help save time and resources as they now only have to channel their energy and work in a given area to maximize their chances of removing microplastics.”

According to Adarsh, the prototype’s extraction process begins by placing the polyethylene plastic beads in a water container to represent the average concentration of microplastics within the Earth’s oceans. 

A simple tubular structure made of aluminum foil is placed at the center of the water container. 

“By using Arduino code, engineering, robotics, a DC Vibration Motor  is directly attached to the tubular aluminum foil structure. Inside the structure, a motorized frother is placed inside the tube underneath the water’s surface to create a vortex. The vortex directs the flow of microplastics to the vertex point inside the center point of the tubular structure.” 

Air bubbles are created within the water, rise to the top of the water, and directly stick to the microplastics. 

The bubbles act as a binding factor within each individual microplastic, making it much more efficient and easier to control. 

The second step is to turn on the DC Vibration Motor and the Arduino Circuit to create a series of vibrations that radiate throughout the aluminum foil; these vibrations create waves that directly attract the microplastics to the tube.

“With the help of the vortex and the bubbles, it makes it extremely easy for these microplastics to fall into the range of the transverse waves and be directed to the tubular structure,” Adarsh explained. 

“Once both steps are complete, the microplastics cluster up on the edges of the tubular structure and can easily be removed because the microplastics will have been grouped into one area.

“The experiment was conducted multiple times to receive an average removal rate of microplastics, “he said. “With my previous prototype having an 8 percent average removal rate, this current removal rate has surpassed my previous solution’s 94 percent average attraction/removal rate.

“It is after collecting the microplastics that they are effectively and successfully removed from the bodies of water,” he said. 

And all this might help save our oceans for future generations to come.