‘FIX’, a project by undergraduate students and Girbau LAB, national winner of the James Dyson Award
Two of the three national winners of this edition of the James Dyson Award are projects of Elisava undergraduate students: FIX, by Maria Mei, Mario Sanz and Núria Fandos, has been the state winner; while NOBJECTE, by Joan Cofán, has been one of the two finalists. Both projects stand out among the proposals received this year, designed by more than 200 students from 24 universities and design schools from all over Spain.
FIX is a project that recovers microplastics from the waste generated by industrial textile washing machines with the aim of converting them into a new material. Microplastics are particles smaller than 5 mm that are released during the washing process; they originate in clothing and are one of the main causes of pollution in the oceans and seas of the planet. Created by three students of the Degree in Industrial Design Engineering and the Degree in Design and Innovation of Elisava together with Girbau LAB, FIX gives a new value to this waste, avoiding that they end up polluting the environment.
“The challenge of the project arose as a proposal from Girbau LAB to our university, Elisava,” explains Mario Sanz. “The company is aware of the environmental impact of the laundry industry and proposed to us the idea of finding a solution that would prevent microplastics from ending up in the water flow. This proposal completely matched our professional interests and concerns about the current environmental crisis and, after a lot of research and prototypes, we ended up finding FIX“.
Their first step was to carry out an investigation of the waste using a washing machine and a filter mesh provided by Girbau LAB, a collaboration space created to add value through innovation promoted by Girbau, a leading company in solutions for industrial laundry. In this way they realized that it was a very difficult waste to capture, control and manage because it contains a wide variety of materials, both synthetic and natural. So they decided that the best way to prevent the particles from being released into the environment was to encapsulate them using a recyclable plastic matrix.
“To arrive at the final material we made many, many prototypes and more than 50 samples,” says Maria Mei Bellsolà of the FIX team. “We started by creating the first samples using a conventional oven, and as we learned about the properties and qualities of the waste and how it interacted with other plastics, we tried other increasingly complex and industrial processes. This is how we obtained the final material in various formats such as pellets and 3D printing filament, so that it could be incorporated into current industrial processes.”
The new material consists of encapsulated washing machine waste (3% by weight), containing microplastics, mixed with recyclable polypropylene plastic (97% by weight). In this way, the microscopic particles are agglomerated with the polypropylene matrix, preventing their release into the environment and ensuring their incorporation into a circular economy system. “It would be very interesting to continue researching how to increase the amount of waste introduced into the recyclable plastic matrix and optimize the material for industrialization,” advances Núria Fandos.
The winners of the James Dyson Award have received recognition from the institution, as well as a financial contribution of €5,700 to develop the project. “We are very proud to receive an award of this level,” adds Fandos. “It is a pleasure to see that companies as important as Dyson give visibility to students’ projects and give them a chance in the world of engineering and innovation”.
NOBJECTE, national finalist of the James Dyson Award, is a tool that helps blind people to alert and control the natural environment thanks to object detection. Designed by Joan Cofán, a student of the Degree in Design and Innovation, NOBJECTE is an intelligent wearable that incorporates an automatic learning model of image recognition through an Artificial Intelligence system connected to a Raspberry Pi. It detects objects through a Dataset and sends a vibrating signal to the user.
NOBJECTE offers a fully customizable device that is low cost because it is open source and can become a substitute for guide dogs in developing countries, where these are only available to a privileged few.
Both FIX and NOBJECTE are now moving on to the international phase of the James Dyson Award 2023. The international shortlist of 20 finalists will be announced on October 18 and the international winners on November 15.