Carbon nanotubes may be used to remove microplastics from ocean

Researchers in Australia have created tiny magnetic coils to break down tiny plastic particles in the seas.


NSFW    ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA — A university of Adelaide-led research team has created a carbon nanotube that could help fight microplastic pollution in our oceans.

Their research was presented in a study published in the journal Matter and was a collaboration between Australia's University of Adelaide, Curtin University, Edith Cowan University and China's Guangdong University of Technology.

The carbon nanotubes are spiral in shape and have magnetic properties. The nanotubes are coated with nitrogen and embedded with manganese in their interior.

The nanotubes are then mixed with peroxymonosulfate, a compound used as an oxidizing agent, to generate reactive oxygen species, or chemical reactions, to break down marine microplastics. The result is that the microplastics are converted into salt compounds, carbon dioxide and water.

During a trial, researchers found that the spiral nanotubes were able to reduce the volume of microplastics present in polluted water between 30 to 50 percent in the span of eight hours.

The nanotubes are retrieved using magnets for later use.

Professor of Chemical Engineering from the University of Adelaide, Shaobin Wang, senior author of the study, explained in a news release from the university that the nanotubes are strong enough to break the microplastics down into compounds that aren't harmful to the ocean's ecosystem.

Wang said that the byproducts of microplastics could be recycled and turned into an energy source for microorganisms, such as food for algae growth.
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