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Planet Care

220: Nanosprings to break down microplastics

Problem:

Up to 14 million tons of plastic enters the ocean annually, 40 percent of which is considered “single-use”, which means it goes into the water within the same year that it was produced. Most plastics never fully break down; they just fragment into smaller pieces called microplastics (5 millimetres across or smaller).

Microplastics have been found in every corner of the globe, from the deepest part of the Mariana Trench to the top of the French Pyrenees.

Solution:

Nanosprings for breaking down microplastics


Xiaoguang Duag and a team at the University of Adelaide South Australia found that nanotechnology – which involves the ability to see and to control individual atoms and molecules – could be a solution to our plastic problem.

Duag and a team of scientists have created magnetic coils that will be used to break down microplastics using a chemical reaction.

These tiny magnetic coils are coated with nitrogen and manganese, causing a chemical reaction with oxygen molecules. This reaction can break down microplastics, turning them into environmentally friendly salt compounds, carbon dioxide and water. In a new study published in the journal Matter, scientists describe a new type of nanotechnology that could help: tiny magnetic “nano-coils” that create chemical reactions in order to break down microplastics in the ocean. The process converts the plastic into carbon dioxide and water.

Visit us tomorrow for Solution 221: ‘The 8th Continent’

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