Microplastics are small plastic particles contained in cosmetics or caused by abrasion and decomposition of plastic waste in the environment. The increasing pollution by plastic particles and fibers in the size of less than 5 millimeters is great challenge for environmental management. The uptake of microplastics by living organisms may cause mechanical injuries of the gastrointestinal tract and triggers inflammation. The adsorption of pollutants to the particle surface still increases the potential hazard of the particles. Therefore, there is an urgent need for methods to identify microplastics in the environment, its sources of input and, of course, the risk of microplastic particles.
The here presented research project MicroPlastiCarrier will develop efficient device concepts for the optical detection and identification of microplastic particles and bacteria in wastewater. The state of the art method is the filtration of liquids and the subsequent detection of microplastic particles with FT-IR. The project aims to overcome the limitations of this technique by the safe identification of microplastics up to a size of up to 250 micrometers in liquid media. This is achieved by a novel combination of optical spectroscopy using infrared light, quantitative phase contrast imaging and Flow Cytometry This principle analyses particles and bacteria in different detection channels because of their size and their absorption and refraction index properties at several wavelengths of light. Combined with innovative microfluidics and laser technology, the device prospects to achieve a significantly higher number of measurements and a speed advantage compared to currently used, labor-intensive filtration processes.
Jürgen Schnekenburger, Steffi Ketelhut, and Björn Kemper, "A novel multimodal optical concept for the detection of bacteria and microplastics in the environment
(Conference Presentation)," Proc. SPIE 10491, Microfluidics, BioMEMS, and Medical Microsystems XVI, 1049114 (Presented at SPIE BiOS: January 29, 2018; Published: 15 March 2018); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2290963.5752208695001.
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Study of self-shadowing effect as a simple means to realize nanostructured thin films and layers with special attentions to birefringent obliquely deposited thin films and photo-luminescent porous silicon