Microplastics — tiny, hard-to-degrade fragments of clothing fibers, water bottles, and other synthetic items — have entered the air, water, and soil around the world.
Now published new research exist ACS Applied Materials and Interface Demonstrating a way to promote their deterioration, at least in the water, using a smaller technology: micro-robots. When added to water with a bit of hydrogen peroxide, bacteria-sized devices will attach to the microplastic particles and start to decompose them.
The metal micro-robot is shaped like a four-pointed star and coated with magnetic particles. Exposure to visible light causes the electrons in the device to absorb energy from the surrounding water and hydrogen peroxide and react with it (a process called photocatalysis), causing the robot to move. Martin Pumera, a co-author of the research report and a researcher at the Prague University of Chemistry and Technology, said: “The area they can scan is much larger than what you can reach with fixed technology.” When a micro-robot When attached to plastic, photocatalysis also produces charged molecules. These will break the chemical bonds in the plastic molecules, just like a jeweler cuts the links of a bracelet.
The researchers tested micro-robots on four types of plastic. After a week, all four people began to degenerate and lost 0.5% to 3% of their weight. In another test, the miniature robot pushed itself through a small channel and was collected by a magnet, bringing up to 70% of the microplastic particles for riding.
Pumera envisions releasing future iterations of robots into the sea to lock microplastics, and then collecting robots for reuse. But Win Cowger, who is not involved in the study, who studies plastic pollution at the University of California, Riverside, said that the potential use of any micro-robot may be limited to closed systems, such as systems used to treat drinking water or wastewater.
Cowger pointed out that current robots can also be attached to materials other than plastic, which may be unsafe if left in large amounts in the water. Pumera’s team is now testing micro-robots made of different materials that can solve these two problems and can operate without hydrogen peroxide.
Oxford University chemists Peter Edwards and Sergio Gonzalez-Cortez wrote in an email: “This work is indeed very interesting, but further research is needed to make this method a A truly feasible and potentially attractive technology to process large amounts of microplastics.” Mail. The two researchers who were not involved in the study proposed using microwave radiation to decompose plastic waste.
For now, Kogg says, “The best way to remove microplastics from the environment is to prevent them from getting there in the first place.”