Facebook PixelTemporary self-sustaining dams to remove plastic pollutants from rivers
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Temporary self-sustaining dams to remove plastic pollutants from rivers

Image credit: Photo by Stijn Dijkstra: https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-plastics-near-trees-2583836/

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Contrived _voice
Contrived _voice Apr 14, 2022
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A temporary, semi-submersible dam that directs plastics on the water surface into a conveyor belt that is run by mechanical energy harvested from the flow of water by accelerating it then passing it over a turbine at the bottom of the dam.
Why?
  • Efforts to clean the ocean are ultimately pointless if the water coming in from rivers is already full of plastics
  • The structure doesn't stop the flow of water downstream and consequently doesn't affect fish population and migration behavior.
  • It is a very sustainable model using the energy of moving water to clean itself
  • Requires really low supervision to work
  • It can be moved from river to river due to its collapsible nature giving it more utility per cost.
  • cleaning the rivers makes them usable for irrigation systems improving food security
How it works
The system is wedge shaped as it meets the water, the top incline leads the polluted water over its top edge where it falls into a porous conveyer belt. The plastics remain on it while the water passes through and joins the river again.

The botton incline is longer and steeper, this is to take advantage of fluid motion and flux . As the water near the surface is converged with the water on lower levels, it picks up some extra velocity and momentum. It is then directed to a turbine at the bottom of the system where the rotation is harvested to generate electricity which is then used to run the conveyor belt system.
Which makes this both renewable and self-sustaining.

[1]http://www.oceansplasticleanup.com/Oceans_Seas_Rivers/Rivers_Top_Twelve_12_Most_Polluted_In_The_World_2015.htm

[2]White, F. M. (1974). Viscous Fluid Flow. New York: McGraw–Hill. ISBN 0-07-069710-8.

[3]Eckert, Michael (2006). The Dawn of Fluid Dynamics: A Discipline Between Science and Technology. Wiley. p. ix. ISBN 3-527-40513-5.

2
Creative contributions

A floating dam

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni Apr 15, 2022
I like the idea! I suggest using a floating dam instead of a fixed one. This is because, if the water level reduces, the dam should drop down with it. If the dam is fixed in place, the plastic will not reach the conveyor belt, it will either sink with the strong water current and pass through underneath the dam or start accumulating on the water surface behind the dam.
Now, the problem with a floating dam is keeping it afloat. Therefore, the dam will need some buoyancy-providing material attached to it to keep it afloat and also in line with the water level. The same material that is used in rafts can be used here. Moreover, the plastic gathered can be packed together and used to keep the dam buoyant.
Another problem with a floating dam is keeping it in place. Strong water currents may push the dam downstream. Therefore, the dam needs to be held in place using chains that have their ends anchored to poles on the banks of the river. The chains can be loosened a bit when the water level starts dropping so that the dam aligns itself with the water level.
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Contrived _voice
Contrived _voicea month ago
yeah, you get the idea. I thought about filling it with air like a ship and then fitting it with buoyancy tanks to take in water for sinking and also balance. Now that you mention it, It should be attached to something on land to keep it fixed, great suggestion.
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Preventing fish from getting caught by the dam

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Povilas S
Povilas S Apr 14, 2022
Great idea! Did you check if something similar is already in use/planned to be built?
I think we should figure out ways to prevent fish from getting caught and trapped by such dams. The rotor in the bottom of the dam (as in your painting) could be covered by a plastic shield to prevent fish from getting hurt by it. But what about the top part? Fish can often be found on the surface of the water and the dam might filter them out together with the plastic waste, some fish/aquatic animals would, almost certainly, end up on the porous conveyer belt. Don't you think so?:)
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Contrived _voice
Contrived _voicea month ago
Yeah, seems too obvious not to exist but I checked. no working model as far as I can tell.
about the fish, I don't think fish enjoy swimming in plastics, I figured they'd just swim lower if the surface was filled with plastics. But even if they do land on the conveyor, they can chuck themselves off it since the top isn't covered.
The turbine is a valid concern though. How do you prevent fish from running into it without slowing down the flow of water? That there is the big question.
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Povilas S
Povilas Sa month ago
Contrived _voice There won't necessarily be so much plastic floating on top, the dam might only catch a bottle/bag here and there from time to time, the river has to be heavily polluted with plastic, for the situation to look like you illustrated. So I don't think it's fair to rely on assumption that the fish would get repulsed by the floating plastic and naturally won't go to the surface. Once the fish get on the mesh this is already bad.
Regarding the rotor, it seems feasible to me to simply cover it with a specialized case to let the water through and maybe even narrow down its stream to increase the pressure and hit the rotor harder at specific places, but at the same time make holes for the water to enter thin enough to prevent fish from getting through. You won't need much energy to power only the movement of the conveyer belt, so it's perhaps ok even if we reduce the power of the water stream a bit.
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Contrived _voice
Contrived _voicea month ago
Povilas S the top doesn't have a mesh. It's a curved surface that's firm enough for fish to launch themselves off, so no worries there
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General comments

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J. Nikola
J. Nikolaa month ago
I found some river plastic collection devices, too. Maybe the most interesting ones were the Interceptor and River cleaning system. They collect plastics, allow free boat navigation and passage, don't propose a threat to fish, and can be easily scaled up. There was also a cool way of collecting plastics by pumping air through the perforated pipe at the bottom of the river and creating a bubble barrier, called The Great Bubble Barrier. There are also many other methods and devices on how garbage can be collected from rivers and oceans. However, I would say that stationary, land-connected systems like Interceptor and River cleaning system are better since usually more plastic can be collected before emptying the storage, compared to the freely-operating floating collectors. Also, the land-connected systems could be made autonomous by robots emptying the storage since they are on the coast of the river.
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Subash Chapagain
Subash Chapagaina month ago
I don't know if it directly relates to the idea, but I have seen plastic traps, something like the one in the picture being used in some fast-flowing streams and canals in India and I pretty much like it.

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Contrived _voice
Contrived _voicea month ago
Subash Chapagain That works too. But i think it would be hard to do on a big river, or one with fish
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