2020 - Microplastic Pollution in Freshwater Systems: Impacts of Biofilm Formation on Microplastic Surface

Grant Award Year: 
Principal Investigator: 
Wan-Ting (Grace) Chen
Sheree Pagsuyoin
Research Description: 
Microplastics are a ubiquitous form of pollution with complex and significant effects (many negative) on the environment around them. For this reason, research in the quantification of microplastics has bloomed in recent years. We, however, hope to contribute to the mitigation of plastic pollution in general by supporting research about extraction of microplastics from the environment. To improve extraction methods of microplastics, we hope to utilize specialized characterization equipment to measure the surface properties of environmentally-modified virgin plastic pellets. This is because the surface properties of microplastics are likely one of the largest determinants of the effectiveness of modern microplastic extraction methods. The growth of biofilms on microplastics makes extraction of microplastics from the environment challenging. Better understanding of biofilm deposition phenomena would be critical for developing effective extraction methods to separate microplastics. Herein, we will study how biofilm impacts the surface characteristics of MPs in freshwater systems. The surface characteristics (morphology, surface charge, chemical functional groups) and the particle size distribution of MPs will be evaluated. The results from this project would be critical for developing microplastic extraction methods from the environment.