Microplastics in the water: in the meantime these particles are found world-wide

Microplastics in the water: in the meantime these particles are found world-wide

Source: BAM

At the 2017 Hannover Messe, the Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und -prüfung (BAM) will be exhibiting a new method to measure miniature plastics particles in the environment. This is an example of BAM’s research power in the focus area ‘Environment’.

Millions of tons of plastic waste are drifting in the world's oceans. Bags, bottles or fishing nets are already visible by the naked eye. However, this plastic waste is degraded by solar, tidal and wind impacts which leads to a less visible environmental problem: microplastics. The plastic particles are only a few micrometres to about 5 millimetres in size. However, information on how much microplastic is in the environment, where it originates and exactly how it has been created has gaps.

An interdisciplinary team of BAM experts headed by Dr. Ulrike Braun from the ‘Mechanics of Polymers’ Division are working to close this gap. The researchers are developing a new and faster measurement method. Environmental samples, for example from filtered water, are heated and the resulting gases analysed. Microplastic particles contained in the water form specific decomposition products which can be identified and quantified. In this way, the amount and type of microplastic contained can be determined.

"New and rapid measuring method for a large number of samples"

"We believe that this approach is faster than conventional investigations using microscopes and spectroscopy", says BAM scientist Ulrike Braun. "The method should be automated and be able to process large numbers of samples." Rapid analysis of large numbers of samples is an important factor because of the global distribution of microplastics in the water.

A German patent application has been filed for the new method. Its suitability for the detection of microplastics in complex environmental samples has already been described in specialist scientific papers.

Avoiding microplastics

The BAM focus-area project is supposed to help reduce the spread of microplastics in the environment: "More knowledge about the emergence and spread of microplastics enables legislators, for example, to achieve better risk assessment, to derive a limiting value for microplastics or to standardise testing and sampling", says BAM researcher Ulrike Braun. "Then politicians and society can develop mitigation strategies."

BAM at Hannover Messe 2017

BAM’s stand in Research & Technology Hall 2 Stand A02 provides visitors with a broad insight into the topic.

About BAM

BAM promotes safety in technology and chemistry.
As a BMWi departmental research institute, BAM performs research, testing and offers advisory support to protect people, the environment and material goods. Its activity in the fields of materials science, materials engineering and chemistry is focussed on the technical safety of products and processes. BAM’s research is directed towards substances, materials, building elements, components and facilities as well as natural and technical systems important for the national economy and relevant to society. It also tests and assesses their safe handling and operation. BAM develops and validates analysis procedures and assessment methods, models and necessary standards and provides science-based services for the German industry in a European and international framework.

Safety creates markets.
BAM sets and represents high standards for safety in technology and chemistry for Germany and its global markets to further develop the successful German quality culture "Made in Germany“..