Dr Richard Sempéré,
Université d'Aix-Marseille, France
Analysis techniques for quantifying nano-and microplastic particles and their degradation in the marine environment
To date, very little is known about the degradation processes of microplastics. It is therefore the aim of the Andromeda project to develop UV, hydrolytic, and thermo-oxidative methodologies to study accelerated plastic degradation in the laboratory, which will in turn establish a collection of partially degraded reference materials for further research applications. Comprehensive degradation studies will be undertaken to examine the mechanisms of UV and microbial degradation of microplastics in seawater and in marine sediments. Furthermore, the influence of parameters such as temperature, acidity and hyperbaric pressure will be investigated, with special attention being given to the leaching of chemical additives.
To facilitate this, microplastic material will be immersed in coastal waters at a depth of 2000 meters for up to 12 months, and the resulting degraded materials will be distributed to project partners for further analyses and physicochemical characterisation. At the same time, hyperbaric conditions will be simulated under laboratory conditions to study the leaching of chemical additives. Chemical compounds will also play a key role in the development of a cost-effective methodological toolbox. Chemical markers that are suitable to replace the invasive sampling of organisms will be identified, consequently avoiding the sacrificing of animals in testing. Metals and organic additives will be tested as potential tracers.
Partners specialised in communication, dissemination, and data management will ensure strong stakeholder involvement and efficient outreach of the project results. Communication activities will include the provision of factsheets to schools, social media engagement, a project website, and participation at national and international conferences.
Interaction with the general public will take place via a smartphone app, which will be developed to engage citizens in the mapping of meso- and microplastics. Moreover, as another way of detecting mesoplastics and large microplastics at the water surface, hyperspectral imaging will be combined with the use of aerial drone imaging.