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Direct degradation of microplastics in wastewater

By Mary Page Bailey |

Microplastic pollutants in wastewater are notoriously difficult to treat, and can stem from many common sources, ranging from personal-care products to textiles. A new treatment technology developed by a team of researchers from Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique (INRS; Québec City, Canada; www.inrs.ca) led by professor Patrick Drogui aims to eliminate microplastic pollutants using electrocatalytic oxidation (diagram) at ambient temperature and pressure, effectively degrading microplastics. “Electricity is used to activate specific electrodes that produce, in situ, powerful oxidants that are required for microplastic degradation,” explains Drogui, emphasizing that the process does not necessarily require the addition of chemicals. Conventional treatment approaches that tackle microplastics in wastewater involve physical separation techniques without actually degrading them, meaning that further downstream processing is required. “Another advantage of this process is that it is a ‘zero-waste’ technology, and microplastics are converted into water and CO2, thus preventing the generation of toxic byproducts,” adds Drogui. The team analyzed the performance of three electrodes: boron-doped diamond, mixed metal…
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