A team of researchers based in China has developed a synthetic and extra-light sponge that could very well be a formidable solution to microplastic pollution in the planet’s reserves of water, both saline and fresh.
Made mostly from starch and gelatin – thus biodegradable – the white marshmallow-looking synthetic sponge can, in optimal conditions, remove as much as 90% of the microplastics.
In their newly published study, the researchers explain how they developed the sponge as well as its functioning. For instance, when the temperature of the two-compound mixture is tweaked, the porosity of the sponge changes. The more porous it is, the smaller the pores, which is good for catching tiny particles. In fact, the specially prepared plastic-filled solution pushed through one of the sponges can remove both microplastics and nanoplastics from the liquid as the particles get trapped in the pores. The sponges could be used in wastewater treatment plants to filter microplastics out of the water or in food production facilities to decontaminate water.