Microplastics are everywhere – ANDROMEDA investigates correct detection and quantification in the sea | Flanders Marine Institute

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Microplastics are everywhere – ANDROMEDA investigates correct detection and quantification in the sea

Added on 2020-06-18
Plastic litter is a worldwide problem. Once in the environment, the plastic crumbles into smaller particles. Also through the use of synthetic clothing and cosmetics, abrasive paint layers and car tires, etc. small plastic particles are released. They end up in the air, water and soil. And ultimately also in the sea. Detection and quantification of the smallest fraction of plastics - the so-called micro- and nanoplastics - remains a major challenge for researchers. Because how do you count and measure these small plastic particles if they are all around you and contamination is appropriate? The ANDROMEDA research project takes up the challenge.

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In May there was the (digital) kick-off of ANDROMEDA, an international research project that focuses on analysis techniques for the quantification of nano and microplastic particles and their degradation in the marine environment. This JPI Oceans project brings together the expertise of 15 research institutes from 11 countries to develop and optimize a methodology to detect, sample and analyze microplastics in situ in seawater, sediment and marine organisms. Hyperspectral visualization, chemical markers and fluorometric detection techniques are central to this project. To quantify and characterize plastics smaller than 1 µm, state-of-the-art techniques are used that use µFTIR, Raman imaging and SEM-EDX, among others. This research should make it possible to estimate the marine pollution by nano- and microplastics more correctly than before.

Within this project VLIZ will focus, among other things, on the development and optimization of a time and cost-efficient method for detecting microplastics in seawater and marine sediments. Use will be made of fluorescent dyes that bind to the particles, so that they can be detected by fluorescence microscopy and microspectroscopy (µFTIR).

VLIZ's Marine Station Ostend will also serve as one of the monitoring stations in the project for measuring nano and microplastics in the air. VLIZ is responsible as well for the archiving of all collected research data from the ANDROMEDA project. PhD student Nelle Meyers will follow up the Belgian tasks within the project (collaboration of VLIZ, ILVO and UGent-GhEnToxLab).

ANDROMEDA is one of six JPI Oceans research projects aiming to address microplastics in the ocean, launched jointly on May 20, 2020.

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