Development of nanometer-sized underwater microplastic measurement technology

A technology that can measure nanometer-sized microplastics in water has been developed. The Korea Research Foundation announced on the 30th that the research team of researchers Minah Seo and Yongsang Yu of the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) developed an optical and electric clip that can capture and analyze microscopic substances in water in real time.


Plastics thrown away in life are broken and split in nature and finally split into nanoplastics with a diameter of less than 100 nm (nanometers, 1 millionth of a millimeter), which are not filtered by a filter. Nanoplastics spread in rivers and seas are distributed at extremely low concentrations, so real-time concentration analysis is impossible with current measurement technologies. The research team has developed an electrical method of tongs that can capture microscopic substances in the size of tens to hundreds of nanometers, such as microplastics and biopolymers.


Subsequently, by combining an optical sensor using a terahertz wave, it succeeded in measuring the concentration of fine substances in water with high sensitivity. A terahertz wave is an electromagnetic wave that vibrates a trillion times per second. It has no harm to the human body and is more transparent than X-rays, so it is called'the electromagnetic wave of a dream. However, it was difficult to apply to water material measurement due to its property mostly absorbed by water.


The research team prevented the absorption of terahertz waves in water through a sensor system that reflects water, while increasing the sensitivity by several tens to hundreds of times through signal amplification.It succeeded in capturing and measuring very small amounts of fine particles by combining an electric tweezer technology that captures nanoparticles and an optical sensor using a change in amplified terahertz wave. The detection sensitivity is such that a trace amount of 1 ppm (1 in 1 million) can be detected out of 40 µl (microliter/1 million ℓ).


It is expected that it can be used to detect biomarkers (a biomarker that diagnoses the progression of a disease) in blood and body fluids. The results of this study were published in the international journal Advanced Science on the 24th.

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