Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2020NV154B

Engineered processes for the separation and degradation of microplastics in freshwater

Institute: Nevada
Year Established: 2020 Start Date: 2020-03-01 End Date: 2021-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $28,508 Total Non-Federal Funds: $57,017

Principal Investigators: Erick Bandala

Abstract: Microplastics (MPs) are plastic fragments smaller than 5 mm in any dimension without specific lower limit which are lately reported being accumulated across the planet, including pristine environments supposed to be free of human impact.1 Despite the great concern caused worldwide recently by ubiquitous presence MPs, up to now most attention has been paid to their sources, distribution, measurement methods, or eco-toxicological effects. Relatively few studies are reported on the separation of MPs using conventional water treatment processes which report medium-high removal efficiency (40-90%) or high operational cost, and even fewer studies have been reported dealing with the destruction of MPs after their separation from water effluents.2–5 This proposal suggest a significant paradigm shift by searching for cost-effective methodologies for the separation and destruction of MPs in freshwater effluents which we consider a significantly pending scientific and technology task to prevent population exposure.Vision and Goals. The overarching goal of this proposal is to assess the capability of novel engineered processes to remove MPs in drinking water source effluents so that the water can be securely used for human consumption. This project centers around identifying best operationalvariables, and the design of the engineered processes for the removal of MPs, assessing the mechanisms involved in eliminating MPs in freshwater, and ensuring the destruction of MPs to avoid further undesirable effects to the environment by their release.Specific Objectives. The detailed objectives of this proposal are to: (i) assess the capability of using acoustic focusing of MPs as well as electrocoagulation as engineered separation technologies for the removal of MPs in freshwater effluents; (ii) investigate the mechanisms involved and theeffect of common water quality parameters on the removal process; and (iii) test the use of advanced oxidation processes as a transformative approach for a complementary process to degrade plastic waste materials after separation.Methods. As the risk of public exposure to MPs increases with the increased use of drinking water sources contaminated with these particles, the need for novel water treatment technologies capable of eliminating these contaminants grows. In this proposal, we will evaluate using engineeredinnovative separation processes (e.g., acoustic focusing and electrocoagulation) for the removal of MPs in freshwater effluents and assess the effect of common water quality parameters on the process efficiency. The removal of MPs using the engineered separation processes will beperformed by flow cytometry for small particles (<20 μm) and visual inspection using microscopy for larger particles (>20 μm). The mechanisms involved in the separation processes and the effect of common water quality parameters (e.g., ionic strength, pH, natural organic matter) on theremoval process will be exhaustively reviewed. Finally, the use of advanced oxidation processes (e.g., peroxymonosulfate, Co/PMS oxidation) will be assessed as a way to efficiently handling complex plastic wastes and effective way to depolymerization and eventual degradation of the MPs.