September 29, 2017
Your favorite clothes may be polluting the world’s water supply. Synthetic clothing including polyester, acrylic and nylon fabrics release millions of microfibers every time they are washed. Even though they are too small to be seen by the naked eye, microfibers have become a massive problem and two undergraduates from the College of Engineering & Computer Science have designed an easy to use product to help catch them.
“They can easily wash down drains, go into the ocean and these tiny pieces of plastic eventually cause a lot of chaos for marine life and aquatic life too,” said Serena Omo-Lamai ’20.
“The shedding of microfibers in washing machines for a city of around 100,000 could be the equivalent of 15,000 plastic bags worth of microfibers every day,” said Charles Keppler ’18.
Keppler and Omo-Lamai designed a microfiber trapping system called “FibreFree” during the six-week [email protected] program, supported by Bill and Penny Allyn, over the summer of 2017. After prototyping several designs, Keppler and Omo-Lamai came up with a small plastic ball that holds a replaceable, recyclable filter.
FibreFree is now a finalist for the international James Dyson Award. The award recognizes projects developed by young engineers around the world and encourages iterative design. FibreFree was one of hundreds of products to be submitted to the competition from the U.S., the U.K. China and twenty other countries. Only 115 products moved on to the international competition and now the final twenty products will be personally judged by renowned designer James Dyson.
“We are honored that the Dyson foundation has recognized FibreFree as one of the top twenty entries in a competition filled with amazing designs from around the world,” said Keppler.
“It is overwhelming to know that the Dyson Foundation sees potential for FibreFree to help combat the very real threat of microfiber pollution,” said Omo-Lamai.
The Blackstone LaunchPad entrepreneurship program on the SU campus helped Keppler and Omo-Lamai prepare their [email protected] project for the award competition.
“We are very proud of Charles and Serena. To be a finalist for James Dyson Award is an incredible achievement and it shows the commitment, creativity and hard work they brought to this project,” said College of Engineering & Computer Science Dean Teresa Abi-Nader Dahlberg. “This is also a great example of what the entrepreneurial ecosystem at Syracuse University can accomplish.”
The international James Dyson Award winner will receive $40,000 and their university will receive $6000. The two international runners up will each receive $6000. The winners will be announced on October 26th.
Students in the [email protected] programs on the Syracuse campus and in New York City get the opportunity to design, prototype and pitch new products. In the summer of 2017, the program was a collaboration between the College of Engineering & Computer Science and VPA’s School of Design.