Designing a new, inexpensive, all-in-one microplastics extraction device
Microplastics are small plastic particles, 0.1 μm–5 mm in size, and are an ill understood pollutant in Earth’s environment. Their small size makes reliable extraction from water and sediment samples difficult, and requires a variety of techniques such as filtration, peroxide digestion, and density separation to make them accessible for identification. Extractions can introduce contaminants or leave behind microplastics as the sample is transferred from the original container to subsequent glassware and filtration devices. The goal of this project is to develop a device in which the majority of the necessary extraction steps could be performed in a single chamber which would limit the introduction of contaminants or loss of microplastics. This device will be easier to use and is made from local, inexpensive materials for ease of building. The device features a series of smooth, 2” plastic tubes attached to removable ball valves so that liquids may be retained or drained as needed. The smooth interior aids in cleaning, and the fact that various parts of the device are removable allows customization depending on required extraction techniques. The device will be compared with the current extraction methods by looking at how it performs in total contamination and in recovery of samples spiked with homemade microplastic fragments, fibres, and beads. If the device can show an increase in recovery or a decrease in total contamination then it will be used in future microplastic projects working with environmental samples.
Faculty Mentor: Matthew Ross