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Ocean waste cleaner wins top Danish design award

COPENHAGEN, Aug. 28 — An ocean plastic waste cleaner was one of the five works that won a top design prize that was announced Thursday night in Elsinore, Denmark.

The Ocean Cleanup Array, designed by Dutchman Boyan Slat, received INDEX: Award 2015 and its designer gets the 100,000-euro first prize. Four other works — an American battery storing energy in homes, a vertical garden system from Singapore, an app teaching languages from Guatemala, and a British adapter enabling users to make eye examinations directly on a smartphone — also won the first prize and shared the remaining 400,000 euro award.

"The Ocean Cleanup Array won INDEX: Award 2015 due to its momentous potential to address one of the largest global challenges: our polluted oceans," said the international INDEX: Award Jury in their motivation. "The incredibly ingenious and well-researched idea will greatly improve the condition of the Earth's greatest natural resource, as well as the lives of millions."

"The jury found five winners who all brilliantly illustrate how design can be a decisive factor when addressing the world's most pressing challenges like pollution, health issues, climate change, over population, poverty, food waste, and many more equally important. The Ocean Cleanup Array is a perfect example of this and promotes exactly the purpose of INDEX: Award," says Kigge Hvid, CEO of the INDEX: Design to Improve Life organization, who founded the prize a decade ago.

The innovative design of cleaner is a collection of huge floating structures intended to go into the center of so-called gyres (giant ocean currents) to gather floating plastic debris.

First, rows of floating barriers — safe for marine life — will work like a giant funnel, sucking in and concentrating the debris. Platforms attached to the barriers will then efficiently extract the plastic from the sea. The debris — some in big and some in very small pieces — will then be filtered and brought on to land, where it will be stored in containers before being recycled.

Designed to be almost entirely self-sufficient, the Ocean Cleanup Array will run on energy harnessed from the sun and waves, according to the designer.

This year's design award received 1,123 nominations from 72 countries, according to the organizer.

Initiated in 2005, the award is financed by the state of Denmark and is split into five categories: body, home, work, play & learning and community, representing human life from inside out. The Ocean Cleanup Array wins in the community category.

The nominations of the 2015 edition ranged from apps helping the blind and wearable thermostats to paper microscopes and self-driving cars.

Peek Retina, a part of the Peek portable eye examination kit that uses apps and a simple adapter to allow almost anyone to perform high quality eye examinations, has won the body category award for bringing professional eye care to remote areas without compromising quality.

Meanwhile, the world's most popular language platform Duolingo and the Sky Urban Vertical Farming System won the play & learning, and work categories respectively.

The rechargeable battery Tesla Powerwall, which won the home category, uses Tesla's proven automotive battery technology to store self-produced green energy. The Powerwall system consists of a solar panel installed on a house roof, a battery to store surplus energy, and an inverter to convert the solar power into electricity.

"It is an absolute game-changer. Energy self-sufficiency — what could be bigger than that?" says Arnold Wasserman, vice chairman of the international INDEX: Award Jury. (PNA/Xinhua)

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