Plastic pollution is a major cause for concern. One area of plastic pollution not often talked about it that caused by plastic microplastics. These little bits of plastics cause a challenge for water treatment plants, but a new research study is looking at a way to decompose these particles. The method uses nanomaterial and magnetism to break down what is normally a difficult material to decompose. This could mean improvements in water treatment, reduced health hazards, and potentially, the clearing up of many plastic-clogged waterways.
Breaking Down Microplastics
Plastics in dumpsites or waterways can remain there for years and years because the material does not decompose easily. It is non-biodegradable, which only ups the challenge because biological particles and molecules cannot be used. Microplastics are the tiny bits of plastics that chip of other plastic materials such as bottle and other containers. Microplastic may not seem that harmful, but in huge volumes, they are capable of causing trouble to waterways and water treatment facilities. These centers do not usually have the right equipment and capabilities to filter out these tiny troublesome bits of plastic. There could also be some health implications for both animals and human beings.
The new research is looking at how to break down microplastics using carbon nanotubes containing specific chemicals. These chemicals are able to degrade the plastic particles in a short space of time.
The initial study is reported in this month’s Matter. The researchers found that their nanomaterials were able to decompose as much as half of the microplastics contained in a sample of water in the space of a few hours. The process went faster when the water was heated. The scientists also used magnetic manganese in the carbon nanotubes to allow them to be easily removed from the water using magnets.