SubμTrack

SubμTrack

Tracking of (Sub)Microplastics of Different Identities - Innovative Analysis Tools for Toxicological and Process-engineering Evaluation
Description

The methods currently available for the analysis of microplastics in environmental matrices are primarily designed for particles in the size range of 1 μm to 5 mm. Smaller particles below 1 μm have hardly been detected so far. However in contrast to larger particles, these are able to enter cells and have a higher potential for adsorption of pollutants due to their relatively larger surface. SubμTrack focuses on plastic particles between 50 nm and 100 μm, because of their higher ecotoxicological relevance. For this purpose, the previously available detection range has to be extended and new methods for sampling, sample preparation, and analysis have to be developed. Another focus of the project is the possible effects of submicroplastic particles on the aquatic environment and on human health. The results of these studies are complemented by an assessment of the social, political and legal dimensions of plastic emission into the environment. By analysing the perception of the problem and possible strategies for action, foundations are to be laid for active processes of social change. The results are also examined regarding to their implementation in legislation, standardisation, and their relevance for voluntary actions.

Main areas of work

  • Characterisation of particles and comparison with reference materials
  • Impact on the aquatic environment and human health
  • Social, political and legal dimensions of plastic emission into the environment

WP 0 Organisation, coordination and public relations

Contact persons
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Jörg E. Drewes, PD Dr. Thomas Letzel, PD Dr. Johanna Graßmann, Technical University of Munich, Chair of Urban Water Systems Engineering, Am Coulombwall 3, 85748 Garching, e-mail: j.grassmann@tum.de

Project partner
TUM-IWC, TUM-LTI, TUM-LAS, TUM-MCTS, IGOE, LfU, UBA, IUTA, Postnova Analytics GmbH, BS-Partikel GmbH

Short description
In addition to the coordination of results and products within the consortium, WP 0 also includes the coordination of activities with partners outside the project. The goal is the sustainable implementation of the analytical techniques, the results and the instructions for action of harmonised strategies in close cooperation with national and international key institutions. The public relations work is mainly coordinated by TUM-SWW and effectively implemented by partners of different orientations.

WP 1 Selection and production of reference particles

Contact persons
Dr. Carmen Nickel, Dr. Jochen Türk, Institute of Energy and Environmental Technology e. V. (IUTA), Bliersheimer Str. 58- 60, 47229 Duisburg, e-mail: nickel@iuta.de; tuerk@iuta.de

Project partner
LfU, BS-Partikel GmbH

Short description
Together with the partners of BS-Partikel and the leaders of the experimental WPs 2 – 5 the required reference particles are identified. In particular, the size, material, marking and the availability of the particles play an important role. The reference particles are selected during the initial phase of the project in order to have enough time to fabricate or purchase the particles at the beginning of the experiments. The project partners BS-Partikel and IUTA then provide the corresponding particles.

WP 2 Comprehensive analysis of microplastic particles

Contact persons
Prof. Dr. Martin Elsner, Dr. Natalia P. Ivleva, Technical University of Munich, Chair of Analytical Chemistry and Water Chemistry, Institute of Hydrochemistry, Marchionistrasse 17, 81377 Munich, e-mail: natalia.ivleva@ch.tum.de

Project partner
Postnova Analytics GmbH, BS-Partikel GmbH, TUMSWW, TUM-LTI, LfU, IUTA

Short description
Innovative and proven analytical detection methods (including sampling, preparation, identification and quantification) for microplastics (1 μm – 5 mm) are determined and tested with reference materials in the submicron range. The most successful techniques of the MiWa project running since 2016 serve as a starting point for this; standard methods from this project will be integrated and compared. Direct contact to actors of the MiWa project is guaranteed by partners of the consortium (TUM-IWC and UBA).

WP 3 Studies on aging, adsorption and desorption of organic trace substances on reference particles

Contact persons
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Jörg E. Drewes, PD Dr. Thomas Letzel, PD Dr. Johanna Graßmann, Technische Universität München, Lehrstuhl für Siedlungswasserwirtschaft, Am Coulombwall 3, 85748 Garching, e-mail: j.grassmann@tum.de

Project partner
LfU

Short description
The particles used in the method validation are subjected to systematic aging processes and biofilm growth. Furthermore, these particles and especially their (resulting) different surfaces are examined regarding their adsorption or desorption characteristics of organic molecules. For this analysis, adsorption and desorption kinetics, among other things, will be investigated. This is done by applying TD-(Pyrolysis)-GC-MS  and LC-MS/MS are used. Experiments with the aged particles are carried out in so-called batch approaches, but also in laboratory wastewater treatment plants operated at the LfU. All samples are also stored in the biological systems of WP 5 if required.

WP 4 Investigations on entry points and process-related evaluation

Contact person
Dr. Korbinian Freier, Bavarian State Office for the Environment, Demollstraße 31, 82407 Wielenbach, e-mail:korbinian.freier@lfu.bayern.de

Project partner
TUM-SWW, IUTA

Short description
Using the methods developed and validated in WP 2, real scenarios are first simulated with reference particles in laboratory wastewater treatment plants at the partner LfU to analyse the fate of the particles within the system. Parallel to this, investigations will be carried out at various measuring points in real wastewater treatment plants. Water samples are certified by IUTA for micropollutants. The aim is to extend the existing sampling technologies to micropollutants. Finally, together with the other partners of the project and based on the expected results, a process-related evaluation will be carried out.

WP 5 Impact on aquatic environment and human health

Contact person
Prof. Dr. Michael Pfaffl, Technical University of Munich, TUM School of Life Sciences Weihenstephan, Technical University of Munich, Chair of Animal Physiology and Immunology, Weihenstephaner Berg 3, 85354 Freising, e-mail: michael.pfaffl@wzw.tum.de

Project partner
TAM-LAS, IGOE

Short description
Potential negative effects of submicroparticles on different biological organisational levels will be investigated and compared to obtain a comprehensive ecotoxicological evaluation. This includes the use of model systems in vivo to determine effects on microbial diversity, communities and trophic structures and functions as well as to identify stress reactions on a higher organismic level. In vitro models extend this approach for the determination of effects on the cellular and molecular level. Based on this a mechanistic understanding of particle-induced stress reactions can be created and potential effects on human health are derived.

WP 6 Social, political and legal dimensions

Contact person
Prof. Dr. Ruth Müller, Technical University of Munich, Assistant Professorship of Science and Technology Policy, Augustenstraße 46, 80333 Munich, e-mail: ruth.mueller@tum.de

Project partner
UBA

Short description
At TUM-MCTS current problem perceptions and coping strategies in society and politics with regard to plastic particles in the environment are analysed by means of qualitative social scientific methods. The focus lies on the perception of the specific ecotoxicological relevance of submicroparticles. UBA carries out a screening of the relevant legal acts at national, European and intercontinental levels. The consideration goes beyond the pure media reference (water, soil and air) and the associated possible transport paths. In particular, the legally undefined range between nano- (limit: 100 nm) and microplastics (frequently stated limit: 1 μm) is of primary interest.

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