Acousweep: Microplastic Separation via Soundwaves

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by KnowESG
KnowESG_ESG tech
Image courtesy of H&M Foundation

Developed by The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA) with support from H&M Foundation, Acousweep is an innovative technology that employs soundwaves to separate microplastics from wastewater.

Acousweep is a portable plug-and-play application that can be easily transported and connected to any wastewater facility, offering a scalable solution for microplastic separation.

The implementation of Acousweep at an industrial scale could greatly impact the fashion industry's sustainability efforts, reducing its environmental footprint.

Microplastic pollution poses a global threat to ecosystems, animals, and humans, originating from various sources such as degraded plastic debris, microbeads in personal care products, and synthetic textiles, which contribute to 16%–35% of oceanic microplastic pollution worldwide.

As a philanthropic catalyst for the fashion industry, H&M Foundation proactively seeks innovative solutions to address urgent environmental challenges, including microplastic pollution, to create a positive impact on the planet's future.

"As a non-profit organisation, we recognise the pressing need for change and strive to support groundbreaking research, such as Acousweep, as evidence that investing in forward-thinking and transformative innovation is crucial," said Christiane Dolva, Strategy Lead, H&M Foundation.

According to Professor Christine Loh, Chief Development Strategist at the Institute for the Environment at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Acousweep marks a significant leap forward in green technology in Hong Kong. This innovative soundwave-based system developed by HKRITA has the potential to prevent microplastic pollution, a highly damaging form of pollution, from entering the sea and being ingested by marine life and, ultimately, humans along the food chain. Acousweep can revolutionise industries, including the garment industry.

Acousweep employs specially shaped chambers and sweeping acoustic waves to efficiently physically trap and separate microplastic fibres from wastewater without the need for chemicals, solvents, or biological additives. The separated microplastics are collected in a tank for further treatment, such as recycling. The current lab-scale system can process 20 litres of water per hour, while the upscaled version is expected to handle 5,000–10,000 litres of water per hour.

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Source: H&M Foundation

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