Making Plastics MicroJanuary 24, 2019
WHOI scientists are using this fragmentation chamber to simulate how waves, sunlight, and sand degrade plastics into tiny fragments in the ocean over time. The chamber provides a motorized platform on which rows of glass containers, filled with plastics and sand-like glass beads, are agitated on a 24/7 basis, which compresses 100 years of natural exposure into 3 months. Knowing how quickly microplastics break down can bridge a critical knowledge gap for scientists and ultimately may help plastic manufacturers design plastics that decompose faster into materials that are non-harmful. The work is part of WHOI’s Marine Microplastics Initiative, which is aimed at understanding the fate of “hidden” microplastics in the ocean and their impacts on marine life and human health. (Photo by Matt Barton, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)
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