Plastic particles that are 5 mm or less are described as microplastics. Microplastics often found in facial scrubs and shower gels as microbeads. The breakdown of larger plastics and machine washing of synthetic clothing also results in microplastics. These microplastics then make their way into waterways and are virtually impossible to remove through filtration. Microplastics consumed by small fish, subsequently bioaccumulate in larger fish which humans consume.
In recent months, two interesting and different methods proposed to hunt and recover microplastics from water.
Anna Du is working on a robotic approach. She uses an artificially intelligent ROV (remotely operated vehicle) to hunt for microplastics. The ROV equipped with an infrared spectrometer and an image processing system which can detect unnatural colours.
The magnetic route designed by Fionn Ferreira. He combines oil and magnetite powder to create a ferrofluid. By adding this mixture to water containing microplastics, Fionn found that the microplastics bind to the ferrofluid. Using a magnet Fionn is then able to remove the solution and leave only water.
Fionn credits Dr Arden Warner as the inspiration for his idea.