Periodic Reporting for period 1 - AQUASENSE (Innovative Network for Training in wAter and Food QUality monitoring using Autonomous SENSors and IntelligEnt Data Gathering and Analysis)
Reporting period: 2018-10-01 to 2020-09-30
Microplastics have caused global attention since the past decade due to its prevalence in various environmental compartments. Plastic is one of the most commonly produced and used materials in the world due to its outstanding features. While major part of landfill wastes ends up into water bodies, the accumulation and dispersion of microplastics in water bodies has caused an adverse effect in aquatic biota. Physiochemical properties and biofilm formation on microplastics have also been carriers of toxic materials which can end up in human food chain through consumption of food or liquid derived from water bodies, such as tap water, salt, sea and food. The presence of microplastics in freshwater systems is still poorly investigated, making data retrieval a difficult task. Studies reporting the presence of microplastics in treated tap and bottled water have raised questions and concerns about the impact that microplastics in drinking-water might have on human health. Currently used methodology for microplastic assessment involves manual collection of volume of water samples, its filtration and digestion, and finally identification. Techniques for identifications are non-standard and lab based which either introduces false estimation or else a requirement of bulky and expensive.
Usage of 3D printing in addressing or simplifying the issue of this global threat can be considered as a scientific advancement in handling this challenge. Therefore, individual components to miniaturize the current microplastic assessment techniques such as 3D printed filter mesh, assisted microfluidics to guide inlet flow and a separation system for small volume analysis will be designed. This will be again be integrated to a miniaturized spectrometer in the later stages for identification of separated microplastics. This way, the project has been routed such that an individual separation system and sensor system particular for microplastics was defined such that it could be packaged and integrated with 3D printing techniques as a demonstration of use of 3D printing in packaging and integration. 3D printing approach will further be approached for sensors from other ESRs of AQUASENSE.
With multi-process 3D printing methodologies, the sensor system will be packaged and integrated in underwater vehicles for detection or used as an autonomous sensor system.
The 3D printing facilities in FBK have been used to understand printer capabilities in terms of its resolution and material compatibility. A training in 3D printing techniques such as Stereolithography (SLA), inkjet printing and Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) has been done so far. The scope of study of metal printing and ceramic printing will be expanded with the advanced manufacturing equipment available in ProM facilities (Rovereto, Italy). Webinar sessions were attended to explore the facilities that could be useful for sensor packaging. Moreover, ESR9 evaluated procedures and possible technological approaches for identify microplastics in waters. In addition, ESR9 evaluated procedures and possible technological approaches for identify microplastics in waters. At first, a literature survey on impacts of microplastics in the environment along with the state-of-the-art techniques for microplastics separation and its classification has been done and included in D3.5. Next, simulation and experimental works for separation of different polymer sizes from liquid feed have been performed and first prototypes of a miniaturized separation module was manufactured by 3D printing.
The potential project impact is twofold:
- to provide valuable information about the origin of plastics particles found in our environment;
- to provide solution able to be potentially implemented in underwater vehicles for detection or used as an autonomous sensor system.
In the project the scope of 3D printing will be extended to strengthen the knowledge and reach of the technology in water quality monitoring applications, discrete component manufacturing and its assembly. For this, a separation system for microplastics will be designed by optimizing design parameters of the separation system through simulation results. The optimized system will be 3D printed to exploit manufacturing ease of 3D printing and will be experimentally validated. Trainings on use of laboratory-based Raman spectroscope and Infrared spectroscope will be performed, which will be used for material and structural analysis, and classification of microplastics separated from the designed system. A comparative study of spectroscopic systems will be performed and eventually the proposed miniaturized sensor system will be integrated by assembly of commercial components. These systems will also be used to test water samples collected from environmental agencies as case studies.