Exploring the transformation of polyethylene and polyamide microplastics during membrane filtration through FlowCam analysis

Yejin Hyeon, Soyoun Kim, Chanhyuk Park

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study explored the applicability of fluid imaging microscopy (FlowCam) as a valuable tool for characterizing microplastic transformations, addressing the urgent need for rapid microplastic measurement techniques. FlowCam offers multiple measurement outputs, making it suitable for automated classification to separate polyethylene (PE) and polyamide (PA) microplastics in wastewater samples. Customized libraries for each type of microplastic were constructed using statistical analysis with appropriate confidence intervals, thus enhancing sorting accuracy. Comparing multiple FlowCam outputs before and after membrane filtration revealed limitations in dimensional outputs, particularly for irregularly shaped PA microplastics. Specifically, a marginal increase in the elongation of PA microplastics after filtration suggested their ability to longitudinally penetrate pores due to their high length relative to thickness. In contrast, PE microplastics with higher circularity, resembling ideal spheres, exhibited greater susceptibility to removal by the membrane pores. Therefore, membranes were more susceptible to wastewater containing PA microplastics, as these are complex and non-uniform particles, that are more likely to induce pore blockage and might form denser cake layers on the membrane surface by tightly filling interstitial spaces. These findings demonstrate the significant role of microplastic geometry and morphology in retention mechanisms and membrane fouling. Collectively, our findings highlight the potential of FlowCam for microplastic identification and provide a valuable basis for the characterization of microplastic transformations within membrane filtration systems, addressing a pressing concern in environmental science within engineered systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number126036
JournalSeparation and Purification Technology
Volume334
DOIs
StatePublished - 14 Apr 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier B.V.

Keywords

  • FlowCam
  • Membrane
  • Microplastic
  • Polyamide
  • Polyethylene
  • Wastewater

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