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Biopolymer Assisted Remediation of Microplastics from Fresh and Saline Water Environments using an Integrated Technology of Coagulation-Ultrasonication/Cavitation

Project description

Shellfish provide inspiration for bioderived microplastic coagulants

Plastics are ubiquitous. These organic polymers are used in packaging, building construction, automobiles, electronics, sports equipment and healthcare, to name but a few. With the widespread use of plastics comes the increasing presence of extremely small pieces of plastic (microplastics) in aquatic environments, largely due to the inability to filter them at wastewater treatment plants. It may be possible to help aquatic organisms and their environments with a polysaccharide common in aquatic and other organisms. Chitosan is a derivative of chitin, an abundant biopolymer found in the exoskeletons of crustaceans and insects. The EU-funded MinusMicro project is analysing ways to produce chitosan and evaluating its potential for use as a microplastic coagulant enabling recovery and, potentially, reuse in construction materials.

Objective

Microplastic contamination in aquatic systems has emerged as a global issue with lasting and hazardous environmental impacts. The present research work aims at remediating microplastics in the native and secondary pollutant laden forms using biopolymer assisted coagulation technique. The novelty in this research lies in synthesizing, characterizing and applying various forms of chitosan namely, ultrasonicated (Enhanced ortho-kinetic and hydrodynamic interactions between chitosan and microplastics are expected to enhance particle removal based on the size and surrounding salinity), electrospun (development of chitosan nanofibers in native, grafted and hydroalcoholic forms for intensifying microplastic coagulation especially for the purpose of bulk recovery and upcycling based on enhancing the bridging potential), cavitated (Development of cavitated chitosan nanofibers of arbitrary sizes and correlate it with the overall gelling strength and coagulation efficiency for removal of microplastics of varying shapes) and surface imprinting (Development of a ‘double imprinted form’ of chitosan particle suspension specially meant to coagulate microplastics by dually interacting with the bound ionic heavy metals and polyaromatics, due to its high binding capacity, high selectivity, and fast mass transfer). The primary research objectives include (i) development and characterization of various functionalized forms of chitosan (ii) generate a two-way evaluation system for coagulation potential and (iii) develop suitable collaborations with waste management organizations and perform real-time application on microplastic recovery and sludge reuse (for construction materials). A wide variety of activated biopolymers would therefore be a sustainable, eco-friendly and effective alternative to synthetic and harmful coagulants used very popularly.

Coordinator

UNIVERSITY OF LEEDS
Net EU contribution
€ 224 933,76
Address
WOODHOUSE LANE
LS2 9JT Leeds
United Kingdom

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Region
Yorkshire and the Humber West Yorkshire Leeds
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
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Total cost
€ 224 933,76