New device Bubble Barrier can effectively control microplastic pollution

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In addition to being small and persistent in the environment, microplastics are polymers with strong adsorption capacity, making them easy to absorb harmful pollutants from their surroundings and enter into the aquatic food chain through bioaccumulation, thereby causing significant damage to marine ecology. Scientists, official organizations and technology companies have proposed a series of technical solutions to help control microplastic pollution.

Currently, fluvial pathways play an important role in the environmental transportation of microplastic pollutants. SKLMP Members Dr. Alessandro Stocchino and Dr. James Fang, work with their research team to study the performance of a new type of bubble barrier device for microplastic collection under different hydraulic conditions. The principle of this innovative device is to generate a vertical curtain of small air bubbles that flow upward through an air pump, and use the sufficient current to direct floating and non-floating particle towards a catchment device, so as to block particles and reduce microplastic pollution.

Because of the lack of data on the device's performance, the research team wanted to experimentally assess the extent of its ability to capture microplastic particles. The findings have been published in the journal Science of The Total Environment, entitled “Performance assessment of bubbles barriers for microplastic remediation”. By using velocity measurements and particle tracking visualizations, the researchers tested two bubble configurations with three flow conditions and two types of particles. The results show that the bubble barrier has blocking effects on microplastic particles, but its capture ability will be affected by the water flow conditions, bubble configuration and plastic particle properties. Therefore, when setting up bubble barriers for different rivers or drainage channels, the barrier system should be adapted accordingly.

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