First, we want to make two things clear:
1. Ice911's founding principle is do no harm, and we stand by it. That means we won't put something out there that'll harm the vulnerable animals, aquatic life, and ecosystems that could greatly benefit from more ice in the Arctic.
2. Our reflective glass beads are not a micro plastic. Ice911 does not and will not ever use plastics to restore ice, which many studies are showing harmful to the environment, human health, and ecosystems.
Hollow Silica-Glass Beads
Our hollow glass beads are essentially very small spheres that float when put in water or melt ponds. Microspheres are used in composite materials, medical technology, biotech, paints and coatings, cosmetics and personal care, automotive, aerospace, and others. They are even applied by the pharmaceutical industry to encapsulate drugs for targeted delivery. Hollow microspheres are typically used as additives to composite materials to lower their density, and have been used and deployed in the environment for decades--they may even be in your drywall.
Our reflective sand is made from silicon dioxide, otherwise known as silica, which comes from the element silicon. Silicon is the main constituent of 95% of rocks on earth, and 2.8 billion million tonnes (that's not a spelling error) of it is present in the ocean as dissolved silica. Ice911's material could eventually dissolve to become a part of this 2.8 billion million tonnes in the ocean, feeding the natural silica cycle on which so many organisms depend. Silicon is by far the safest element we could use because all life has co-evolved with it in various forms on land, in our rocks, and dissolved in our oceans.
2.8 million billion tonnes
Amount of silica already present in the ocean
246.3 billion tonnes
Amount of silica added to the ocean every year from natural sources
Less than 0.000004%
Ice911's potential addition to the amount of silica already added to the ocean every year
If you're worried about the "micro," part, not all microparticles are made equal--silica microspheres can actually be a boon to the global silica cycle and ecosystems as long as they're over the size threshold that is deemed harmful to life when breathed in, 10 micrometers. Ice911's silica microspheres average between 35-60 micrometers, well above that 10 micrometer threshold.
Our glass beads are engineered for high purity and stability with the following features:
Perfectly spherical: meaning no jagged edges
Floatable: each microsphere has a hollow inside filled with air so it floats to the top of melt ponds if ice begins to melt, allowing for the sand to continue reflecting radiation
Chemically unreactive: not prone to chemical reaction
Wettable: sticks to ice and water the second it hits the surface
Hydrophilic: does not attract oil-based pollutants