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The Tyre Collective

We are The Tyre Collective, and our patent pending technology captures tyre wear right at the wheel; safeguarding us from the second largest microplastic pollutant in our environment.

  • Our device uses electrostatics to collect charged particles flying off the tyre

  • We are the Tyre Collective and together we can save our air from tyre wear!

    We are the Tyre Collective and together we can save our air from tyre wear!

  • The device is positioned close to where the tyre touches the road to maximise effectiveness

  • The Rig, which mimics a tyre skidding on the road, was built to test our prototypes

  • Various typologies and configurations to maximize surface area and collection efficiency

  • Sketches exploring different embodiments of our technology

What it does

We serve fleet vehicle operators and manufacturers to achieve zero-emission goals. Our device uses electrostatics and airflow around the wheel to capture tyre particles; to be processed and reused in a variety of applications, creating a closed-loop system.


Your inspiration

We all know tyres wear down, but never consider where it all goes. Microplastics are commonly associated with single-use plastics but we were shocked to discover that half a million tonnes of tyre wear is produced annually across Europe. It enters our waterways, the food we eat, and the air we breathe; accounting for up to 50% of PM2.5 & PM10 emissions from road transport. As we move towards electric vehicles, it is crucial to consider the implications of tyre wear, so we are not replacing one pollution source with another. Last July, the UK government issued a call to action and are looking for solutions; we set out to answer it.


How it works

We discovered that rubber particles coming off the tyre are positively charged due to friction. Using a single array of electrostatic plates, our design currently captures 60% of all airborne particulates on our test rig. It is low energy and can be powered directly from the car’s alternator. Our tested solution is the result of collaboration with experts in Aerodynamics and Material Science from Imperial College, facilitated by design. Positioned close to where the tyre meets the road, with sufficient ground clearance, the device takes advantage of various air flows around the spinning wheel. It is attached to the steering knuckle, free to move and turn with the suspension, and adaptable to different vehicles. Captured tyre particles are stored in a cartridge within the device and collected during servicing. Once refined, they are extracted and used in a variety of applications, including new tyres, 3D printing and dyes, creating a closed-loop system.


Design process

As designers and engineers, we were driven by an iterative process of learning through making exploring various methods like vacuuming and adhesives. However, our discovery started with an observation—rubbing a balloon against a sweater and watching shaved tyre particles dance. This led us to hypothesise that the rubber itself was charged and that we could use electrostatics to capture it. To test our theory we built a rig, spinning a bike wheel against a sprung road to mimic a tyre skidding. Our early prototypes were built in card, foamboard and copper, experimenting with various typologies and configurations of charged plates to maximize surface area and collection efficiency. Initially powered by an external power source, we also tested batteries and built our own Van de Graaff generator. Since the particles are pre-charged we only require a single array of electrostatic plates powered directly from a dynamo, stepping up the voltage as required. To validate this problem in the context of London we collected road-sediment samples from different locations and identified a significant presence of tyre wear. To visualise the problem, we tracked TFL busses in realtime and calculated that a single bus produces 336g of tyre wear per day, a pile the size of a grapefruit


How it is different

Tyres are the stealthy source of microplastic pollution we never thought about, and the implications of these particulates in our environment are only just emerging. EVs and regenerative braking will dramatically reduce tailpipe emissions and brake wear, leaving only tyre wear. We are the only solution considering tyre wear collection at source and are positioned to take first-mover advantage. Our patent covers the technology, various plate configurations and embodiments attached to a variety of vehicles in the vicinity of the tyre and underbody. By capturing right at the wheel we are more effective than outdoor HEPA filters, and consume less energy than vacuuming and conventional electrostatic precipitators. The device will provide real-time data on the rate of wear in relation to driving habits and environmental conditions. This data is valuable to tyre and vehicle manufacturers to understand the performance of tyres over long periods of time.


Future plans

This is a complex problem, and one that we cannot tackle alone. Our business model offers B2B unit sales alongside maintenance and tyre wear data. We are currently negotiating a joint development partnership with a global car manufacturer and research partnerships with two major tyre producers. We are working hard to develop a small production run to test in real world conditions on their vehicles. This will bring us one step closer to our MVP. Our 5 year plan targets a pilot programme with TFL, as we align with their vision for a zero emission fleet by 2030, and we have received a letter of interest from the head of engineering for busses.


Awards

Since March, we won Imperial College’s Venture Catalyst Challenge Moonshot prize and were Student Runners up in the Core77 Design Awards for commercial equipment and social impact. Ongoing, we are semifinalists in the Mayor of London’s Entrepreneurship Competition and national finalists in the EIT Climate Launchpad.


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