The following is an excerpt from XiaoZhi Lim | September 8, 2018 | Huffingtonpost.com |
On Saturday a team led by 24-year-old Boyan Slat will haul a 600-meter boom system from San Francisco out to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to clean up marine plastic. The launch of this much-anticipated project from his organization, the Ocean Cleanup, marks the culmination of five years of research — surveying, prototyping, testing, redesigning and more testing — not to mention $31.5 million in funding.
“Hopefully in the next few months, we will be able to prove that it works by taking the first plastic out of the ocean to land. And of course, that will be a very historic moment,” says Slat, who dreamed up the project when he was 18.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which covers more than 600,000 square miles between California and Hawaii, contains roughly a third of the plastic debris floating in the oceans. It’s one of the world’s five major ocean gyres — huge regions where circular currents gather trash.
Slat’s system is essentially an autonomous boom that floats around the ocean powered by wind and currents. “The ocean is a very challenging environment to engineer for,” he says.
The team eliminated mechanical parts and kept the boom structure flexible to help it contour to waves. (It should survive waves up to 20 meters high.) A skirt that hangs from the boom to 3 meters below the surface is a screen, not a net, to keep animals from getting entangled. The designers factored in extra buoyancy to cope with plants, algae and other organisms that will attach themselves to the system. There are sensors to track it and estimate when it is full of plastic so a vessel can go empty it.
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