Projects / Programmes source: ARIS

Degradation of textile microplastic for domestic wastewater treatment

Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
2.04.00  Engineering sciences and technologies  Materials science and technology   

Code Science Field
T153  Technological sciences  Ceramic materials and powders 

Code Science Field
2.05  Engineering and Technology  Materials engineering 
microplastic, ZnO, TiO2, photocatalytic degradation, microbial degradation
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Researchers (20)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  53998  Nina Cerar    Technical associate  2020 
2.  03937  PhD Miran Čeh  Materials science and technology  Researcher  2019 - 2023  655 
3.  36374  PhD Jerneja Čremožnik Zupančič  Microbiology and immunology  Researcher  2020 - 2023  68 
4.  05935  PhD Nina Gunde-Cimerman  Biotechnology  Researcher  2019 - 2023  1,267 
5.  17279  Barbara Kastelic Bokal    Technical associate  2019 - 2021 
6.  31970  PhD Špela Koren Bačovnik  Control and care of the environment  Researcher  2019 - 2020  68 
7.  36373  PhD Monika Kos  Biology  Researcher  2021 - 2023  69 
8.  31074  PhD Manca Kovač Viršek  Control and care of the environment  Researcher  2019 - 2023  140 
9.  55244  Marko Kozjek    Technical associate  2021 - 2023  13 
10.  50904  PhD Živa Marinko  Materials science and technology  Technical associate  2019 - 2023  41 
11.  10440  PhD Aleš Mihelič  Mechanics  Researcher  2019 - 2023  109 
12.  56602  Matej Milijaš Jotić  Microbiology and immunology  Researcher  2021 
13.  34266  PhD Monika Novak Babič  Medical sciences  Researcher  2019 - 2020  154 
14.  35494  Kristina Obu Vazner  Control and care of the environment  Researcher  2020 - 2023  20 
15.  27843  PhD Matejka Podlogar  Materials science and technology  Head  2019 - 2023  287 
16.  53417  Tina Radošević    Technical associate  2020 - 2023  80 
17.  37792  PhD Luka Suhadolnik  Materials science and technology  Researcher  2019 - 2021  79 
18.  37811  Mitja Štimulak  Mechanics  Researcher  2019 - 2023  29 
19.  36201  Mitja Vranc  Energy engineering  Researcher  2020 - 2023 
20.  56298  Luen Zidar  Biotechnology  Researcher  2022 - 2023 
Organisations (4)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  0106  Jožef Stefan Institute  Ljubljana  5051606000  91,921 
2.  0211  Institut for Water of the Republic of Slovenia  Ljubljana  5055253  738 
3.  0481  University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty  Ljubljana  1626914  67,254 
4.  1446  Gorenje Household Appliances  Velenje  5163676000  1,053 
Plastic is a widespread pollutant throughout the world and is currently present even in things we digest. This research considers small microscopic debris called microplastics, which are found in sediments, salt, organisms, and are through water and food, consumed every day. Microplastic was discovered only after several years of research and based on the findings we can divide it into two groups. While the secondary one comes from the decomposition of plastic bags, bottles, etc., primary microplastic, as the most abound type, comes mostly from synthetic textile, through its washing.  Unfortunately, filters, which are applied, are difficult to clean, maintain and are less efficient for smaller debris. It is unlikely thus, that such collectors will find a wide-scale adoption. We propose to address this challenge by developing better means of in-situ microplastic degradation and breakage using photocatalytic or photoelectrocatalytic reactions at the source of contamination – in the appliance itself. Within the scope of the proposed project we plane to join groups from the field of material science (Department for Nanostructured Materials, Institute Jožef Stefan), water management, policy and pollution (Institute for Water of the Republic of Slovenia), microbiological expertise (Chair of Molecular Genetics and Biology of Microorganisms, Department of Biology, Biotechnical Faculty UL) and industry (R&D Competence Centre Laundry Care, Gorenje Group d.d), which will also cofund the work. We would like to follow their policy, with the aim, to reduce the release of microplastic from their future domestic and industrial washing machines. The primary objective of the proposed research is to evaluate to what extent the microplastic fibers, released from common washing machines, can be degraded into harmless and ecologically unproblematic waste release.
Significance for science
Degradation of pollutants to harmless, possibly even useful substances, represents a very attractive field, which has only recently been investigated by the research community, and a comprehensive understanding of the subject can only now be realized through modern hardware, computational power, and methods. We expect that within five years the research currently performed within groups specialized in environmental and technical science will expand to more fundamental fields including chemistry and physics. Our aim is to contribute to this emerging field with innovative investigations into plastic debris emerging from waste water and their degradation to less problematic materials. Techniques implemented within the scope of the research are subdivided into individual research units and work package. Although protocols for identifying and quantifying the microplastics are already set, there are many unanswered questions regarding shape, surface chemistry, accurate composition and similar, which will be important for furthering understanding and addressing emerging challenges. By implementing difficult analytical techniques, we will answer some of these questions and newly important factors influencing the rate of degradation. Research in the field of catalytic material is already under way. Here we showed how TiO2 and ZnO nanoparticles, with different morphologies, influence the decomposition of dyes and we showed, how they can be used for other catalytic reaction. Although the implementation to plastic decomposition is straightforward several experiments will have to be performed to optimize the decomposition. By monitoring this work we will establish new paths and develop new techniques, also to other catalytic based research. We will publish fundamental findings in high impact journals and present them in scientific conferences for widespread adoption.
Significance for the country
It is easy to imagine that similar solution which we propose within the scope of the project will eventually have to be integrated into the waste water treatment, or polymer-based textiles will have to be banned from production. This application-based research was planned together with Gorenje Group, which is one of the leading European manufacturers of household appliances. It targets the development of a prototype with the whole purpose of integrating a working device into manufacture. Although passive filters have been developed, there are virtually no active technologies that sufficiently target very small microplastic particles and the construction of such device is thus very appealing. The smaller the particle is, the more likely it will be decomposed with the proposed catalytic based solution. This research will thus open another possibility of integrating our device together with filters for more complete results. The research on degradation of microplastic conducted together with a company that produces washing machines will itself raise interest and hopefully result in further funding for product completion and market testing. Washing machine waste water is the number one domestic microplastic emitter and any reduction of the release will have a beneficial impact on the environment. Moreover, the Gorenje d.d. envisions such application as an integrated part of their broader sewage water management. In this cleaning system, they have estimated that water can be used in nine to ten successions, until it is used in agriculture. Here the research we propose also directly addresses the issue, since within the scope of the project we also aim to optimize the characterization of pollutant present. We believe that together with Gorenje we can offer such solutions, offering new jobs, and new innovations for Europe.
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