The Bubble Barrier
The Bubble Barrier is the first technology to use a bubble curtain to capture plastic pollution in rivers. Over the past 7 years, we have developed the most effective and energy-efficient solution to trap and remove plastic without hindering ship or fish passage.
How does the Bubble Barrier work?
We create a bubble curtain by pumping air through a perforated tube on the bottom of the waterway. The bubble curtain creates an upward current which directs plastic to the surface. By placing the Bubble Barrier diagonally across the river, the natural flow of the water will push the plastic waste to the side and into the catchment system.
The catchment system is designed to work in harmony with the bubble curtain to collect and retain plastics. Following collection, it will be removed for processing and reuse.
The Bubble Barrier system
The Bubble Barrier comprises three main components: the bubble curtain, the compressor, and the catchment system. The three components are designed to work together to create the optimum solution for each location. The components are:
The location and necessary airflow of our bubble curtain are adapted according to the flow dynamics of the river or waterway. The bubble hose is made from rubber tubing and is ideally suited to application in a wide range of locations.
The bubble curtain is created by using compressed ambient air. We use electric compressors that are optimised for the bubble curtain and tailored to the requirements of continuous operation and to any location-specific characteristics. Wherever possible, we aim to power our Bubble Barrier with renewable energy. This may vary per city and infrastructure.
The bubble curtain will be paired with the most suitable catchment system. We have developed our own catchment system which can be adapted to the local infrastructure at the site, for example, to accommodate how it will be emptied by local authorities.
Bubble Barrier Benefits
Safe for fish passage
Migrating fish can pass through the bubble curtain or through the system’s fish passage.
The bubble curtain extends across the full width and depth of the waterway.
Our system is suitable for a wide range of locations, without requiring changes to existing local infrastructure.
Increases dissolved oxygen
Bubble curtains increase the dissolved oxygen at the site, benefitting the aquatic ecosystem.
No operators are needed to ensure the system functions round the clock, while monitoring can be handled remotely.
Open for ship traffic
Ships can navigate the Bubble Barrier without obstruction.
Effectively removing plastic from waterways
catch rate based on pilot data
of inorganic dry debris collected by Bubble Barrier Amsterdam every month
of inorganic dry debris collected by Bubble Barrier Amsterdam every month
*based on 6 months data in 2021
Are you ready to take action?
Send an inquiry and we will get in contact with you.
How we implement a Bubble Barrier
Before we implement a Bubble Barrier, we carefully conduct research on the preferred location with you to ensure high quality and optimal performance. Typically, we go through the following phases with our clients:
1. Preliminary research
In this phase we assess the suitability of a specific location, the best strategic partners, permit requirements and the indicate the total costs.
In this phase we will make a final design based on our research and the permit requirements and we will install the Bubble Barrier.
In this phase the Bubble Barrier is fully operational ready to make impact. This includes organizing a launch and executing a tailored communication plan fitted to the local community.
The scheduled maintenance of the system can either be done by us or a certified third party.
Which rivers are suitable?
Every river is unique. Therefore, we carefully assess the options for installing a Bubble Barrier in each instance. A Bubble Barrier is suitable for many different sizes and types of rivers, as follows:
River type A
A canal which is mainly used for recreational and smaller tourist boats. This type is typically around 30 m wide and is often no more than 2m deep. The canal may flow in various directions.
River type B
A canal with a constant discharge and flow in one direction only. Typically, this type varies in depth between 2m to 5m and in width between 30 m up to 50 m. Ship traffic is predominantly recreational, with some occasional commercial ship traffic. The profile of the river is broadly rectangular and often man-made.
River type C
A river that has been significantly shaped by human activity; it has been mostly straightened with few, if any, meanders remaining. It is predominantly used for commercial ship traffic, including bulkers, tankers and container and river cruise ships. The deepest parts may be 5-7m, while widths vary from 100m up to 200m. Typically, there is a constant downstream flow with seasonal fluctuations in discharge.
This type typically ranges from 30m up to 200m in width, but with tidal influence. Therefore, there are constant changes in the direction of flow. Depending on the nature of the river, it could be home to both recreational and commercial ship traffic.
Download specifications of a Bubble Barrier
Find out more about the specificities of a Bubble Barrier system
Frequently Asked Questions
How much energy does one Bubble Barrier use?
The Bubble Barrier uses compressed air to create the bubble curtain. Depending on the scale and length of the Bubble Barrier, this is done by means of a compressor. The length of the Bubble Barrier has a significant influence on the necessary energy usage. We will always be looking for the most energy-efficient configuration, but this may vary per city and infrastructure. Our Bubble Barrier uses much less energy than bubble curtains that are used to separate fresh from saltwater or to prevent oil spills. Our first Bubble Barrier in Amsterdam is consuming about the amount of energy of an electric city street sweeper car here in The Netherlands.
How much does one Bubble Barrier catch?
The amount of items collected depends first on the amount of pollution present in the water. In test conducted in the river IJssel, the Bubble Barrier caught approximately 86% of tracers.
The preliminary results of our one year study with Plastic Soup Foundation shows that Bubble Barrier Amsterdam catches on average 85 kg each month of inorganic debris, the equivalent of 2,7 tonnes.
The one-year study that will provide information on the type and amount of plastic found in our waterways, following the OSPAR method. With this research we will provide valuable insights to municipalities and governments to further strengthen the urgency to act and put in place measures to stop plastic pollution. Expected results of 2022.
Can the Bubble Barrier catch microplastics as well?
Yes, in a pilot conducted in Berlin our Bubble Barrier system has proven it could catch particles as small as 1 millimetre up to 1 metre.
We often witness this in sorting events we conduct every month in collaboration with Plastic Soup Foundation, where we found a staggering number of Styrofoam particles.
We know that microplastics (particles smaller than 5 mm) are directly derived from macro plastics therefore it is crucial to collect those items before they reach the seas where it will be impossible to retrieve them as currently there is no technology to collect nonvisible microplastic (smaller than 1 mm).
What do you do with the catch? How are you handling the plastic collected?
Plastic caught by Bubble Barrier Amsterdam is collected by the Water Authority here in Amsterdam who in turn send it to a recycling centre.
Part of it is collected monthly for a research study led by the Plastic Soup Foundation together with Waternet to underpin the exact amount, type, brand and origin of the plastics.
Wherever we implement a Bubble Barrier we help to ensure our waste is processed in the most sustainable way through existing waste management systems.
We are also currently exploring with partners how to upcycle our collected plastics to turn it into items that improve people’s lives and contribute to a circular economy.
However as a tech start up we focus our effort on the efficacy and deployment of the Bubble Barrier technology and its catchment system. There are other great innovative start ups focusing on sorting, identification and recycling only.
How different are you from other solutions?
There are a lot of litter traps and booms available in the world. Our system is the only one able to cover the full width and depth of a small or medium waterway without hindering fish migration or ship traffic. Bubbles can also have a positive impact on ecosystem as they increase oxygenation level which is beneficial for aquatic life.
How does the Bubble Barrier interact with fish?
Fish can pass through the bubble curtain and under the Catchment System.
Our Bubble Barriers are designed to stop as much plastic as possible with the least amount of air possible. It is a single curtain, in contrast to some fish deflection screens of e.g. six curtains in a row. There are no additional stimuli, like light and sound. Therefore, the set-up differs quite strongly from the bubble curtains used for fish deflection and we can say with certainty that our Bubble Barrier doesn’t block fish.
Nevertheless, we find it important to keep researching fish behavior around our bubble curtains. Our latest research focused on smaller fish around the Bubble Barrier Amsterdam. This research showed smaller fish passing through the bubble barrier and underneath the catchment system.
Due to the complexity of fish behaviour, we will always continue our collaboration with ecologist.
For more information please read our white paper.
What is the cost of a Bubble Barrier?
All rivers are different, therefore so is the costs to clean them. Plastic Pollution has an enormous and growing cost to society and the environment. Infrastructures like a Bubble Barrier is an investment, with prices starting at 350K euros. However, with 90% catch rate on tested materials, the cost of one Bubble Barrier system fits well under municipalities’ budget to clean their cities and doesn’t compare with the costs of plastic pollution in our environment. It’s time to rethink the way we approach “cost”.
Please visit our general FAQ page for more information and questions.
In collaboration with our research partners, we conduct research in the field of technological performance, ecology and monitoring of the macro and microplastics in our projects.