About the project
The global production of plastic, that can take hundreds of years to biodegrade, is expected to triple by 2050, and micro and nanoplastics have recently been found in our soil, tap water, bottled water, beer and even in the air, we breathe.
There is a growing concern about the potential health risks that micro and nanoplastics pose to us whether through ingesting the harmful bacteria they pick up when coming from wastewater plants, or just through injury and death of cells through contact, possibly through absorption of nanoplastics by cells.
Little is known about the origins, types and concentrations levels, of micro and nanoplastics and more importantly their effects on human health and the wider environment due to the lack of suitably sensitive and specific instruments to detect and count them.
A new EC drinking water directive was published in 2020 stating that water companies will need to measure concentrations of microplastics from within two years for positive release and inspection, but that would currently require expensive scientific laboratory equipment, prohibiting their in line use for many companies across Europe especially considering their need for highly trained personnel.
MONPLAS is a four year Initial Training Network that consists of some of Europe’s greatest experts who in collaboration with end-users and equipment manufacturers, will provide tomorrows talent with the skills and knowledge to deliver technologies that will permit a robust, easy to use and low cost industrial instrument, whose measurements will correspond directly to the EC directive,
It will do so through the application of know-how and techniques developed in Lab on Chip (LOC) technologies for human healthcare, to find novel ways to prepare and manipulate samples, improve detection technologies, being coherent with harmonised analytical methods and apply developed instrumentation in a more systematic and ‘standardised’ way so as to generate greater and far more meaningful and quantitative data.
To achieve a breakthrough in the detection of micro and nanoplastics in water (and other beverages, food, soil and air), as well as in the tracing of their origins and determination of their toxicity, the next generation of scientists and engineers will need to develop various novel technologies, applications and methodologies that require close collaboration within broad interdisciplinary research programs. The creation of such an environment, currently lacking in the EU and worldwide, is the principal motivating force for MONPLAS.
MONPLAS’ training will expose 14 ESRs to state-of-the-art concepts and research techniques essential to compete in scientific research. In doing so they will be set on the way to becoming world-leading in the international community to drive international interdisciplinary research in MP and NP detection, and boost groups.
The measurements of the robust, easy to use and low cost dedicated instrument, through direct correspondance by calibration to the validated EC method or standard, will permit widespread commericial applications for positive release and inspection of manufactured goods. From the synergy with other media, the technologies developed will also provide the groundwork for post project development of suitable instruments for sea water, air and some food-stuff monitoring.
We will do so through the creation of a multi- and inter- disciplinary network spanning different sectors from which state of the art detection technologies, applications and methodologies will be developed and subsequently commercialised (tertiary aim), either within current scientific instruments and/or within a dedicated instrument for inline measurements.
The principal aim of MONPLAS is to improve our ability to detect, trace the origin, determine the toxicity, and ultimately eliminate micro and nanoplastics from water.
In doing so we will be able to add to the limited data on microplastics in water and beverages, as well as develop and standardise a method for the initial data taking (identity and shape) of nanoplastic, so that uptake and effect on animal and human life can be studied through toxicokinetics and toxicity (secondary aim).
The project and network is unique in its focus on technology and scientific challenges underpinned by ESR training in micro and nanoplastic detection. According to the EU CORDIS search engine there has never been ANY EC funded project that has targetted the development of technologies for the detection of micro and nanoplastics. Moreover, outside of the marine environment there has never been an EC funded project based on the study of micro and nanoplastics.
It will use a three pillar approach to tackle both the technological and scientific challenges in micro and nanoplastic detection and numeration, namely it will undertake the research and development of the technology, application and procedures. To do so, it will require bringing together the whole of the value chain, from the technologists and instrument makers all the way to the quality assurance testing end-users. For the technology to be successful it will utilise the multidisciplinary experience of photonic and microfluidic participants who have worked together previously for synergetic human healthcare applications to develop necessary interdisciplinary approaches for this new target. Consequently the ESRs will receive an innovative training package embedded in MONPLAS’s research network.
With the three pillar approach it will focus principally on advancing two complementary detection technologies (FTIR and Raman), in combination with microfluidics, for beyond state-of-the-art scientific instruments validated by current instruments (including PY-GC-MS) and experiments with spiked samples. Moreover, it aims to develop the first reliable detection technology for nanoplastics on real samples for which current methods do not work well.
The development of state of art detection technologies, detection applications and procedures will include testing at various sites across Europe leading to mapping of micro and nanoplastic origins and toxicological studies.
The project targets an easy to use, low cost and reliable commercial instrument for multi-sectorial end-users given its wide spectrum of instrument and quality assurance partners.
Given the breadth (and depth) of the consortium it will set the research roadmap, not just for the detection of micro/nano plastics in water, but also for all beverages, food, soil and air.