Microplastics have become a problem in our current world in every aspect. They are found nearly everywhere and have been traced in our foods and water. To deal with the menace, scientists are working around the clock to find a solution.
Researchers at the University of Surrey have now developed a robot fish that can draw microplastics from water and store them in its internal cavity. The fish moves in water with its mouth wide open, collecting microplastics and storing them.
According to the researchers behind the new discovery, it is more efficient than existing methods of removing microplastics. Lead researcher of the study Professor Nicky Eshtiaghi says that current methods could take days to remove microplastics from water.
Additionally, according to Eshtiaghi and his team, they have created a cheap and sustainable method of ridding microplastics from water.
The team has also developed an adsorbent that can remove microplastics that are 1,000 times smaller than those detectable by treatment plants currently. The adsorbent is in the form of powder and can act much faster than other methods.
“The nano-pillar structure we’ve engineered to remove this pollution, which is impossible to see but very harmful to the environment, is recycled from waste and can be used multiple times,” said Eshtiaghi in a release.
The adsorbent was made from nanomaterials that can easily mix in water. The material attracts plastics and other dissolved pollutants. Moreover, the entire process takes just an hour or less.
Eshtiaghi, the first author of the study and Ph.D. candidate at the School of Engineering, said that the nanomaterials contain iron. Iron plays a role in helping to use magnets to separate plastic pollutants from the rest of the plastic.
Dr. Nasir Mahmood, a co-leader of the research, said that their new device factors the need to keep carbon pollution out of the picture. In other words, the device does not leave more harm behind by cleaning microplastics.
“Our powder additive can remove microplastics that are 1,000 times smaller than those that are currently detectable by existing wastewater treatment plants,” Mahmood said. “This is a big win for the environment and the circular economy.”
Now that they have finished testing the material, the team is looking for industrial collaborators. They say that the technology is good enough to be commercialized. It could be utilized in water treatment among other applications.
Lead image via Unsplash