Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution shares details of microplastics detection project

Newswise – Woods Hole, MA (January 11, 2022) – Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic that can be found in the ocean and the atmosphere. Scientists’ current understanding of microplastics is that they are prevalent around the world, but the impact they have on ecosystems and humans is largely unknown. Current technologies for identifying microplastics are also limited, but a project led by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s chemical sensor lab is bringing researchers closer to a field microplastics sensor that measures the amount of plastic particles in the body. ‘water.

WHOI is joining co-development technology company Triple Ring Technologies for the next phase of the project, designing and developing the sensor for field use. The sensor technology was developed in the lab of Anna Michel, Associate Scientist at OMSI and Chief Scientist of the National Deep Submergence Facility with Beckett Colson, student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology / WHOI Joint Program. Under the leadership of Dr. Sheila Hemami, Senior Director of Growth Initiatives at Triple Ring Technologies, the project will transition from a bench demonstration to a fully usable field unit. The goal is for the sensor to be operational and locally deployable by the end of 2022. Support for this technological development is provided by a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to Triple Ring Technologies.

“We are confident that this field-usable sensor will provide a widespread assessment of microplastic pollution in waterways, sewage, storm water and other areas where microplastics may be of concern,” said explained Michel from WHOI. “The role of plastics in global ocean health remains unclear, and this collaborative research focuses on the theme of using technology to quantify and identify ocean plastics. Specifically, the team is interested in the weathering of plastics, on land and in the ocean, and the adsorption of metals to plastics found on beaches around the world.

As a prerequisite for the field system, the team developed an impedance sensor that can identify whether a particle in a fluid flow is a plastic or a biological material. This is one of the first demonstrations of continuous microplastic counting and sizing with differentiation of plastic and biological materials, paving the way for real-time microplastic detection and enabling microplastic measurement and data collection. in different bodies of water. To date, no instrument can be deployed in the field for the detection of microplastics, and the next step is to develop such an instrument to understand exactly how many microplastics are entering our rivers, oceans and drinking water.

A key objective of this research is to move the existing laboratory system to a system that works in the field, first as a portable system that can be used for research on the surface water of ponds and lakes, and then to another that can be used for surface water analysis of ocean waters, and then finally to one that is submersible and could be deployed on underwater vehicles. This will greatly open the ability of scientists to quantify microplastics in the ocean.

“Our overall goal is to develop a low cost sensor that can be scalable widely. This would allow global communities to have access to precise measurements of microplastics, scientists to have a robust method for counting microplastics in water bodies, and researchers to have a better idea of ​​the extent of the disease. microplastic pollution, ”said Michel.

In addition to helping scientists study microplastics in water bodies (ocean, pond, river, lake), the sensor could be used for quality control, for example to quantify the number of microplastics found in the water. drinking water or waste water. The team is considering a future possibility that drinking water standards include limits for microplastic content.

“The field unit we are developing will fill a significant unmet need for environmental sensing, enabling rapid and inexpensive microplastic measurements in support of data-driven mitigation actions for plastic pollution. We are delighted to lead the way with WHOI in this effort, ”said Dr Hemami.

Additional funding that has supported this research at WHOI includes the Richard Saltonstall Charitable Foundation, the Wallace Research Foundation, the Gerstner Family Foundation and the Harrison Foundation.

WHOI shares details on microplastic detection project


About the Woods Hole Institute of Oceanography

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) is a private, non-profit organization located in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. Founded in 1930, its primary mission is to understand the ocean and its interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate an understanding of the role of the ocean in the changing global environment. WHOI’s pioneering discoveries stem from an ideal combination of science and engineering, which has made it one of the most reliable and technically advanced leaders in fundamental and applied ocean research and exploration. WHOI is known for its multidisciplinary approach, superior ship operations and unparalleled deep-sea robotics capabilities. We play a leading role in ocean observation and operate the most comprehensive suite of data collection platforms in the world. world. Top scientists, engineers and students collaborate on more than 800 concurrent projects around the world, both above and below the waves, pushing the boundaries of knowledge and possibility. For more information, please visit www.whoi.edu

About Triple Ring Technologies

Triple Ring Technologies is a Silicon Valley-based co-development company with offices in Boston, Toronto and Copenhagen. They partner with clients in the fields of medical technology, life sciences, sustainability and the environment to create new technologies, launch innovative projects and launch new businesses. Their capabilities span initial R&D, product development, manufacturing, regulatory approval, market access, strategic investment and incubation. For more information, please visit www.tripleringtech.com.

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