Detecting microplastics in environmental samples is complex. In the SIM-QPla project, funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research we are developing mobile analysis methods that facilitate this process.
We encounter plastics in numerous areas of our lives and are often making use of their positive properties. One example is medicine, where plastics are used because of their high sterility. However, we also increasingly encounter plastics in problematic contexts, namely whenever plastic waste ends up in the environment. Plastic is very durable under normal environmental conditions and decomposes through chemical-physical or microbiological processes into smaller and smaller particles: microplastics. According to the current state of research, the effects on flora and fauna, and on humans, are not yet foreseeable. Initial studies show that effects on living organisms are size-dependent and that it is the smallest particles of <10µm that can be absorbed. In addition, the quantities of microplastics in the environment, especially for the size range of 1-10 µm, have not been recorded so far. It is assumed that compared to large particles, the smaller particles occur most frequently. The sources of microplastics entering the environment also include industrial and municipal wastewater treatment plants, which cannot filter out the particles completely.
The SIM-QPla research project therefore focuses on treated wastewater that is discharged into the environment.
Currently, the detection and analysis of microplastic particles in water is mainly based on MIR spectroscopy. Here, the absorption of light in the mid-infrared range (MIR) by plastic particles is used to detect and classify the small particles. The problem is that the measuring devices required for this are too large and not robust enough to be mobile and used on a large scale. As a result, sampling and analysis are comparatively costly.
„Mobile detection methods for microplastics are in high demand. However, there is no supply – the measuring devices are too big and not robust enough. We want to change that with the SIM-QPla project.“
The research project is part of the funding programme “Quantum Technologies - from Fundamentals to Market” of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The partners in the SIM-QPla project have set themselves the goal of developing the technological basis for a new class of MIR spectrometers that are both compact and robust, thus opening completely new possibilities for environmental analysis. This is achieved by using entangled photons, which make MIR detectors unnecessary in the MIR spectrometer.
With this technology, even small amounts of microplastics can be detected in water samples with uncomplicated sample preparation. The samples are measured with the photons in the MIR range. Detection then takes place in the near infrared range, for which detectors and cameras are available at low cost, in contrast to the MIR range.
The project volume of 2.7 million euro is being funded by the BMBF at 77.2 % for three years.
01/10/2021 - 30/09/2024
2.7 million euro (77.2 % funded by the BMBF)
“Quantum Technologies - from Fundamentals to Market” of the BMBF, Funding code: 13N15939
Eagleyard Photonics GmbH, Westphalia DataLab GmbH, Ferdinand-Braun-Institut GmbH, Leibniz-Institute for High Frequency Technology, Humboldt University Berlin, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, WESSLING GmbH
Eagleyard Photonics GmbH
Berlin / Germany
Westphalia DataLab GmbH
Münster / Germany
Humboldt University Berlin
Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences - Institute of Physics
Berlin / Germany
Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster - Biomedical Technology Centre
Münster / Germany
Functional Materials – Micro- and Nanoanalysis
Altenberge / Germany