Efficacy of electrolytic treatment on degrading microplastics in tap water

(1) Williamston High School Math and Science Academy, Williamston, Michigan

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Microplastics, or plastic fibers less than five millimeters in length, are a significant environmental problem and are extremely difficult to remove from water. In this experiment, we quantified the effect of electrolysis on the degradation of microplastics in tap water and explored electrolysis as a potential solution to this issue. We hypothesized that an electrolytic treatment would disassemble microplastic molecules, as it does with water. Treated water consisted of samples electrolyzed for 30 minutes in an electrolysis machine, while samples of untreated tap water were the control. We examined filters under a microscope before and after filtration of the water samples to determine the number of net microplastics in every sample. Overall, control samples demonstrated a greater number of net microplastics than experimental samples (Mann-Whitney U, p = 0.047). Thus, we conclude that electrolysis is a valid and practical method to degrade microplastics in tap water because of its high efficiency within a short duration of time. These findings could be of great value as they have the potential to improve the quality of drinking water, and by extension, public health. This research indicates electrolysis could be advantageous over many other methods of water purification in respect to microplastics.

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