HomePOPULARIISc Scientists Develop Sustainable Hydrogel to Combat Microplastic Pollution in Water

IISc Scientists Develop Sustainable Hydrogel to Combat Microplastic Pollution in Water

Microplastics, pervasive pollutants infiltrating ecosystems worldwide, pose a significant threat to environmental and human health. To tackle this pressing issue, scientists at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have pioneered a groundbreaking solution: a sustainable hydrogel capable of removing microplastics from water.

In a recent press release, IISc explained that the hydrogel features a unique intertwined polymer network designed to bind and degrade contaminants using UV light irradiation. Led by Professor Suryasarathi Bose from the Department of Materials Engineering, the research team devised a novel approach to address the limitations of conventional filtering membranes, which often become clogged with microplastics.

The innovative hydrogel comprises three polymer layers – chitosan, polyvinyl alcohol, and polyaniline – interwoven to form an Interpenetrating Polymer Network (IPN) architecture. Infused with nanoclusters of a material known as copper substitute polyoxometalate (Cu-POM), the hydrogel acts as a catalyst under UV light, facilitating the degradation of microplastics.

To evaluate its efficacy, the team simulated real-world conditions by crushing common plastic products to create polyvinyl chloride and polypropylene microplastics. By incorporating a fluorescent dye, researchers tracked the hydrogel’s ability to adsorb and degrade microplastics under various conditions.

Results demonstrated the hydrogel’s remarkable efficiency, with approximately 95% and 93% removal rates for the two types of microplastics at near-neutral pH (∼6.5). Moreover, once the hydrogel reaches the end of its lifecycle, it can be repurposed into carbon nanomaterials capable of removing heavy metals from contaminated water.

Buoyed by these promising outcomes, the research team aims to develop a scalable device for widespread deployment, offering a sustainable solution to mitigate microplastic pollution in diverse water sources.

The IISc’s pioneering hydrogel represents a significant step forward in the global effort to combat plastic pollution, underscoring the critical role of scientific innovation in safeguarding the environment and human well-being.

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