Indian Institute of Science Made A Hydrogel That Can Clean Microplastics From Water


Scientists from the Indian Institute of Science just published a report that has incredible implications for the future of our oceans – and immediate implications for our health.

The IIS researchers created a hydrogel capable of cleaning microplastic from water. Their creation binds microplastics in an unique intertwined polymer network. Then, that new mass allows for them to be degraded using UV light irradiation. 

Even more, the microplastics-cleaning hydrogel can be reused multiple times, and can bind to multiple types of contaminants.

The best part?

Once it’s no longer efficient at capturing microplastic particles, the hydrogel can be repurposed to remove heavy metals from polluted water.

Also read: These 20 Companies Create More Than Half of the World’s Plastic Waste 

Phys.org explains:

“Scientists have previously tried using filtering membranes to remove microplastics. However, the membranes can become clogged with these tiny particles, rendering them unsustainable. Instead, the IISc team led by Suryasarathi Bose, Professor at the Department of Materials Engineering, decided to turn to 3D hydrogels.

The novel hydrogel developed by the team consists of three different polymer layers—chitosan, polyvinyl alcohol and polyaniline—intertwined together, making an Interpenetrating Polymer Network (IPN) architecture. The team infused this matrix with nanoclusters of a material called copper substitute polyoxometalate (Cu-POM).

These nanoclusters are catalysts that can use UV light to degrade the microplastics. The combination of the polymers and nanoclusters resulted in a strong hydrogel with the ability to adsorb and degrade large amounts of microplastics.”

In their tests, the scientists tested two different types of common microplastics. Their hydrogel could remove between 93% and 95% of the contamination, and could withstand up to five cycles of microplastic removal before losing efficiency.

*Main image by 5Gyres, courtesy of Oregon State University, via Flickr

Also read: Rutgers Scientists Develop A Spray-On, Plant-Based Coating That Could Replace Plastics On Food 

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