British startup develops machine to fight air pollution attributable to tire abrasion

Tire wear is a major contributor to microplastic pollution – small particles that do not biodegrade and accumulate in the environment, releasing harmful toxins into the air and our waterways. And although there is no EU regulation to this effect yet, a London startup has developed a device that can capture these particles.

The Tire Collective started as a masters project by three former students from Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art who founded the startup in 2020. It claims to have developed the very first device to detect tire contamination.

The team discovered that tire particles become charged through friction with the road. Based on this, it developed its patent-pending technology that uses electrostatics and airflow to attract up to 60% of these particles. Once captured, they can be recycled as micronized rubber for a variety of uses such as 3D printing, shoe soles and soundproofing – creating a closed loop system.

How the device looks. Photo credit: The Tire Collective

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Working with London-based logistics company Zhero, the cleantech startup completed its first pilot in November 2022. The TC02 prototype was able to detect tire abrasion particles ranging in size from 0.3 to 100 microns. Over half were below 10 microns, considered the most hazardous to human health and the environment.

In the first phase, the Tire Collective is targeting logistics fleets, starting with delivery and maintenance vehicles before moving to buses and trucks. In the future, the device will be scaled across all vehicle segments, with a special focus on electric vehicles. It is also looking for partners to run larger pilots and OEMs interested in integrating the technology.

Although reducing pollution from tire abrasion is an integral step towards zero-emission mobility, it has not received the attention it deserves. This means it’s a favorable place for clean tech startups trying to improve the sustainability of a vehicle’s lifecycle.

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