Student Inty Grønneberg, has been named Latin America Inventor of the Year by MIT Technology Review for the company he founded, which develops cutting-edge technology to tackle the problem of ocean plastic.
His start-up Ichthion (formerly Remora Marine), which he co-founded with Imperial student Robert Rouse, is currently based at Imperial’s White City Incubator.
Almost eight-million tonnes of plastic waste enter the oceans each year, and 90 per cent of comes from just ten rivers. This breaks down into tiny fragments called microplastics.
There are concerns that microplastics may be harmful to human health if they enter the food chain by being swallowed by marine life.
Ichthion’s solution is to create innovative technologies that suck in plastic from rivers, coastal areas and oceans before it can enter the marine ecosystem.
The systems are designed to integrate seamlessly into existing infrastructure, and would generate the energy they need to extract the plastic debris using the flow of water passing through their turbines. This provides a low cost and efficient solution.
One of their products, Azure, is a river barrier that Ichthion say can remove up to 80 tonnes of plastic waste from rivers per day before it reaches marine environment, more than ten times more than existing solutions.
They are also developing turbines and ship thrusters that can be attached to ships and static infrastructure to remove plastic pollution from coastal areas and oceans.
Inty Grønneberg said: “At the moment there is an understandable push towards reducing our consumption of single-use plastic to help combat the serious threat of plastic pollution in our oceans and rivers. While this is a laudable aim, it will take time to reduce our reliance on these materials. We urgently need to find solutions in the meantime to remove this pollution from our environment before it can damage our ecosystems and some real data of the pollution in water streams to drive better policies. We believe that our technology is a real game-changer and are honoured that MIT Technology Review have recognised its promise”
Ichthion were recently awarded a total £600,000 from Innovate UK to accelerate their development and expedite the market launch of their technology.