Its technology, still in testing, makes it possible to eliminate the presence of microplastics increasingly present in the human environment
At home, in supermarkets, in shops, in rubbish bins and even in water. Plastic is one of the pollutants with the greatest presence in the daily lives of the eight million inhabitants of the planet. It is one of the preferred containers for protecting food and drink and in many cases, it is not recycled and ends up in landfills under ‘best’ conditions or, in others, water, an increasingly common destination for years. it happens.
Images of turtles and fish trapped by plastic rings joining soda cans are common, although others go unnoticed and not because they are not photographed, but because they cannot be seen with the naked eye. Could Microplastics are present in many places: one of them is water.
Microplastics have been found from north to south, from the deepest ocean trenches to the highest mountain peaks, and even in human blood. An environmental problem that has already become a health issue, which is why South Korean researchers are working to reduce these tiny pollutants with the development of a filter to purify water.
This new technology, developed at the Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology (DGIST), allows it to “capture more than 99.9% of microplastics in water and other contaminants in just ten seconds,” say its promoters.
Current filtering systems are based on carbon which has a slow and complex absorption rate. However, the South Korean solution is built on a CTF or triazine covalent framework, which is very porous and has a large capacity to store molecules captured by it. “Its filtering ability and its speed are surprising,” the South Korean researchers explain.
“We expect this to be a cost-effective universal technology capable of purifying polluted water and supplying drinking water even in areas without electricity,” says Professor Park Chi-young, lead author of the study.
In addition to its filtering properties “it is completely recyclable”, he explains in the investigation. Added to another special property is a property that allows it to absorb sunlight and convert the energy into heat, which also allows it to eliminate other pollutants: volatile organic compounds (VOCs), Chemical substances that are produced in industries that make paints, pharmaceuticals. or refrigerant.
The new filter managed to remove more than 98% of VOCs, but a new prototype that combined both technologies was able to remove more than 99.9% of both pollutants.
Currently, various materials are being tested to help filter out microplastics, such as magnetic nanopillars, nanocellulose, semiconductor threads, and filtration columns with sand, gravel, and biofilms.
Microplastics are present in the air, in food and in water, with a small, almost invisible fraction of 1–10 microns, that is, one thousandth of a millimeter. Various studies have estimated the average daily intake rate of microplastics by an adult at 883 particles or 583 nanograms per person.
In fact, multiple investigations have found microplastics in human feces, human lung tissue from surgical interventions, blood samples, and even in the umbilical cord.
A trip into the human body that comes through food or drinking water, whether bottled or from the tap. The State University of New York analyzed 259 bottles of 11 different brands in 9 different countries and found an average of 325 plastic particles per liter of bottled water. Another investigation, in this case by an American NGO, Orb Media, analyzed 159 samples of tap water in different countries. 83% of all samples collected contained microplastics and it is not known for certain how these polluting fibers got into the water.
In the case of wastewater, its origin is easy to trace: between 80 and 90% of plastic particles contained in wastewater, such as clothing fibers, because each wash cycle in a washing machine can release up to 700,000 fibers into the environment .