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Aug 14, 2022
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Developed the world’s first environmentally friendly filter for microplastics

Developed the world's first environmentally friendly filter for microplastics

Microplastic is very small plastic – usually less than five millimeters in size – that can accumulate in humans and other animals and interfere with a number of biological functions. They mostly end up in the oceans and eventually affect people at the top of the food chain, initially disrupting the endocrine system of marine life. In order to minimize the harm caused by microplastics, reliable and efficient filtration technology is needed.

However, because they are small, it is extremely difficult to separate or dispose of microplastics in the water with existing filters. Especially nanoplastics, which are smaller than a micron, entail formidable problems, including filter clogging and environmental pollution caused by the filter itself.

Recently, however, a research team led by the Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology (DGIST), in collaboration with the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology (KITECH), has succeeded in developing the world’s first environmentally friendly power generation device that can effectively remove fine particles, including micro- and nanoplastics. This device is based on the triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG) developed by researchers at DGIST and particle removal technology by electrophoresis developed by KITECH scientists.

Since TENG generates electrical energy from physical energy, it makes it possible to produce environmentally friendly microplastic filters. What’s more, since the new device uses the high voltage characteristic of triboelectric energy, it does not require an external power source, so it can operate regardless of location.

According to scientists, the new TENG based on a porous microstructure demonstrates more than three times higher performance than the existing TENG. Tests showed that the microplastic removal rate of this device was 21.4 percent – about 5.6 times faster than the existing TENG. In addition, the researchers have shown that this revolutionary technology can effectively remove other microtoxic particles, such as nanosized zinc oxides or silicas.

A detailed description of the device was published in Nano Energy magazine.

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