Microplastics’ Shape and Morphology Analysis in the Presence of Natural Organic Matter Using Flow Imaging Microscopy

Soyoun Kim, Yejin Hyeon, Chanhyuk Park

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Ubiquitous microplastics in urban waters have raised substantial public concern due to their high chemical persistence, accumulative effects, and potential adverse effects on human health. Reliable and standardized methods are urgently needed for the identification and quantification of these emerging environmental pollutants in wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). In this study, we introduce an innovative rapid approach that employs flow imaging microscopy (FlowCam) to simultaneously identify and quantify microplastics by capturing high-resolution digital images. Real-time image acquisition is followed by semi-automated classification using customized libraries for distinct polyethylene (PE) and polystyrene (PS) microplastics. Subsequently, these images are subjected to further analysis to extract precise morphological details of microplastics, providing insights into their behavior during transport and retention within WWTPs. Of particular significance, a systematic investigation was conducted to explore how the presence of natural organic matter (NOM) in WWTPs affects the accuracy of the FlowCam’s measurement outputs for microplastics. It was observed that varying concentrations of NOM induced a more curled shape in microplastics, indicating the necessity of employing pre-treatment procedures to ensure accurate microplastic identification when utilizing the FlowCam. These observations offer valuable new perspectives and potential solutions for designing appropriate treatment technologies for removing microplastics within WWTPs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6913
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 by the authors.


  • FlowCam
  • microplastic
  • natural organic matter
  • pre-treatment
  • wastewater


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