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Experimental evidence of plastic particles transfer at the water-air interface through bubble bursting

Abstract : Plastic debris in the marine environment are the subject of an extensive literature. According to studies dedicated to the determination of plastic litter abundance and to the characterisation of degradation and fragmentation processes, models were used to estimate the global plastic debris abundance and to simulate their transfer and distribution. Despite these efforts, there is still missing plastic in the models used as areas exist where plastic abundance is less than that estimated. In parallel, microplastics presence in the atmosphere and in remote areas was confirmed suggesting long range atmospheric transport. Potentially addressing both these issues, recent literature suggests that microplastics (MPs) and nanoplastics (NPs) can be transferred from the marine environment to the atmosphere via the bursting of air bubbles at the sea surface. Nevertheless, to date there is no direct evidence of this transfer. In this study, we evaluate plastic particles transfer as a function of MPs/NPs characteristics and water composition by simulating the bubble bursting phenomenon in a laboratory reactor. Size distribution of transferred particles were recorded, and their plastic nature was confirmed using electron microscopy. Results show that under tested conditions, the transfer is possible but limited to particles smaller than 1 μm. The influence of the presence of proxies of components of the sea surface microlayer in the water was evaluated showing a higher particle transfer rate in the presence of a surfactant (sodium dodecyl sulfate) and no significant effect of polysaccharides (xanthan gum and dextran). The surface state of the particles can alter their behaviour in the aqueous phase and thus their transfer to the atmosphere. The effect of bubble size was also evaluated showing a higher transfer rate with the smaller bubble size. In addition, experiments performed with grounded polyethylene (PE) samples showed higher transfer for UV-aged PE than for pristine PE.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, March 2, 2022 - 2:38:48 PM
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Maria Masry, Stéphanie Rossignol, Brice Temime Roussel, David Bourgogne, Pierre-Olivier Bussière, et al.. Experimental evidence of plastic particles transfer at the water-air interface through bubble bursting. Environmental Pollution, Elsevier, 2021, 280, pp.116949. ⟨10.1016/j.envpol.2021.116949⟩. ⟨hal-03302019⟩



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