Award winning science project inspired by west Cork, student says

Fionn Ferreira’s won $50,000 for microplastic removal initiative at Google Science Fair

A second-level student says he was inspired by his home in west Cork when he created an award winning project which aims to remove microplastics from the world’s oceans.

Fionn Ferreira (18) from Ballydehob was named the overall winner of the 2019 Google Science Fair, an annual science competition open to students aged 13 to 18 from around the world.

He was one of 24 global finalists, chosen from a shortlist of 100 entries, and won a $50,000 (€45,000) bursary at an awards ceremony at the Google’s international headquarters in Mountain View, California on Monday.

During an interview on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Fionn was asked if he had been inspired by his home area?


“Of course,” he replied, “I’m in west Cork, right beside the seaside. I go kayaking, I go sailing, that of course had a huge impact on this project. Here, even at this science fair I was highlighting that west Cork was one of my true inspirations.”


He described winning the award as “so exciting and so inspiring that such an amazing panel of judges decided to choose me” and said winning the award was great recognition for him and his project.

“People obviously enjoy what I’m doing and people are getting excited about science just like me. I think, for me anyway, I love inspiring other people to do science and I think this is recognition that I’ve inspired the judges about science too,” he said.

“Of course this award will also include travel elements, there is several other trips involved with this award and working closely with the partners of this competition - Scientific American, National Geographic, Virgin Galactic and of course Lego. All of those have perks built in to this award. It’s an amazing honour to be selected for this.

“For me the greatest part of this award is actually just being a finalist and just that recognition.”


Fionn said his project is a novel method to remove microplastics from water which “uses magnetic liquid” or ferro fluid.

“This ferro fluid sticks to these plastic particles allowing them to be removed just using magnets so it’s kind of cool to watch,” he said.

“Basically I’ve shown that this works on the 10 most commonly found types of microplastics and I’ve experimented with many more.

“Now I’m just ready for it to be scaled up and used in waste water treatment to remove microplastics. We all know this is a grave issue in Ireland and all over the world.

“It will definitely work, we’re working on that currently together, all of these partners of this competition - that’s their aim, they want to see this used. They think it will work, I think it will work.”

Fionn will start his undergraduate studies in Groingen University in the Netherlands in the autumn. He said he chose the Dutch university because of its reputation for scientific study and because he wants to go to Europe “and get outside my comfort zone”.

The university has educated many Nobel prize winners. Asked if he could be a future Nobel prize winner, Fionn replied that “when I entered this competition I didn’t think I’d win. If it happens, it happens. We’ll see”.