My research project
Development of analytical tool for detecting and quantifying tyre particles and microplastics
In 2016, global plastics production was around 335 million metric tons, around 40% of which was in single use products that are discarded rapidly to reach all environmental compartment. Plastic litter pollution attracted a lot of attention from our society due to the visible physical damage that Mega- and Macro-Plastics can generate by entanglement leading to choking/starving. However, the hidden concern of plastic litter pollution is the fragmentation of these large plastics reaching Micro-size particles (microplastics, MP, <5 mm = 5000 µm). It has been estimated that up to 51 trillion of MP particles have accumulated at the sea surface and that these quantities are increasing. However, the global load of plastic on the open ocean surface was estimated to be on the order of tens of thousands of tons, far less than expected. It was hypothesised that the missing plastic might be due to further fragmentation of plastics litter into nanoplastics (NP, <1µm = 1000 nm) via ultraviolet light exposure and/or mechanical actions. A recent report highlighted that NP is one of the least investigated types of marine litter but potentially one of the most hazardous. Resolving the fate and behaviour of the missing plastic debris (i.e. NP) is of fundamental importance to determine the nature and significance of the impacts of plastic pollution in the ocean. The project aims to develop an analytical method to detect, characterise and quantify plastics particles and their additives in complex environmental matrices (e.g. soil, water, organisms) using hyphenated mass spectrometry techniques (e.g. GC, ICP, LC).