Surface Morphology of a Microplastic as an Indicator of Its Microscale Degradation
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The Science and Technology Park of the University of Zielona Gora, Poland
University of Zielona Góra, Zielona Góra, Poland
Online publication date: 2021-12-30
Publication date: 2021-12-01
Civil and Environmental Engineering Reports 2021;31(4):196–213
Most of the plastic produced, being one-use plastic packaging, is finally disposed of into the environment. Several agents such as solar radiation, mechanical forces, and microbial action may enable the degradation of these plastics. The purpose of this article is to present a method for studying the properties of a surface of a microplastic particle affected by erosion at the microscale level, which occurred with the help of destructive forces associated with the impact of the sea. The results of analysis of the morphology of the tested sample of microplastic (consisting of poly(propylene)) allowed observing how it was degraded. Examining the surface of a microplastic, one can analyze a number of factors as well as determine the possible path the material has traveled until it was collected as a sample. By determining the scale of the patterns, it is possible to estimate how long the sample and other microplastics present in marine environments have been there. The use of an Atomic Force Microscope not only allows the surface of the sample to be imaged in a non-destructive manner but also enables the degree of degradation to be calculated mathematically, provided a baseline is established from which erosion can be assumed to have originated.
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