Australian researchers have found a way to clean the environment of microplastics. They invented a special powder that can absorb even undetectable particles. The substance should not leave any additional impurities and be easily removed thanks to the magnet.
Researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, have developed a powder that removes microplastic particles from water. Then it can be “strained” using a magnet, they reported in the scientific journal “Chemical Engineering Journal”.
As the research leader, Prof. Nicky Eshtiaghi, while removing microplastics from water with existing methods can take days, her team’s cheap and sustainable solution achieves better results in one hour.
Even the ones that are hard to detect
The powder can remove microplastics 1,000 times smaller than those currently detected and removed by wastewater treatment plants. The adsorbent has been successfully tested in laboratory conditions, and its inventors plan to establish cooperation with the industry and further develop their method.
“The nanopillar structure that we developed to remove this impurity, which cannot be seen, but which is very harmful to the environment, is recycled and can be used again and again,” assured Prof. Eshtiaghi. “This is a big win for the environment and the circular economy,” she added.
No additional impurities
Since the nanomaterial contains iron, magnets can be used to easily separate microplastics and contaminants from water. It is designed to attract microplastics without creating secondary pollutants or a carbon footprint.
– The adsorbent has special surface properties, thanks to which it can effectively and simultaneously remove both microplastics and dissolved pollutants from the water – said Dr. Nasir Mahmood, who participated in the research. – Microplastics smaller than 5 millimeters, which can take up to 450 years to degrade, cannot be detected and removed by conventional treatment systems, resulting in millions of tonnes being released into the sea each year. This is not only harmful to aquatic organisms, but also has a significant negative impact on human health, the researcher added.
Eshtiaghi and her team have worked with various water utilities across Australia, including the Melbourne Water and Water Corporation in Perth, on a recent Australian Research Council Linkage project to optimize sludge pumping systems.
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