Microplastic pollution is an urgent issue, but we do not fully understand the physical mechanisms by which microplastics are transported in the environment. This is a complex problem: waterborne microplastics are quickly fouled by living organisms, which affects their mass distribution, settling velocity, and other physical properties, which in turn have strong effects on long-term transport. We propose an interdisciplinary study of how the presence and character of biofilms on microplastics can affect their movement in environmental flows. This project will create a new collaboration, lay the groundwork to establish Penn State as a leader in an area of increasing concern, and provide preliminary data to leverage into larger opportunities, aligning with funding trends.
Two researchers at Penn State are studying how biofilms on microplastics affect their movement in environmental flows, with the goal of understanding microplastic pollution and developing solutions to mitigate it.