Portable High-Throughput Microplastics Sensor (temporary name)

University of Alabama


[Limited information currently available. Will update post deployment.]

The University of Alabama has developed a microplastic sensor prototype. The prototype includes (1) sample pre-treatment modules allowing water passage through a hydrocyclone and a series of sieves of different mesh sizes (20 μm, 200 μm and 500 μm) (2) a flow sensor to measure the volume of water passing through the system, (3) a Raman sensor to excite and to measure the scattered photons of different wavelength, (4) an embedded system to acquire signals from different modules and capability to trigger a Raman scan and to control the flow rate when microplastics of interest have been detected, and (5) a battery and power electronics as a power management module. Microplastics of different diameters could be sampled continuously by fluidic channels of various sizes which interface with Raman sensors scanning back-and-forth across different channels. The edge computing capability would be developed for data processing and management.

Through the USGS Next Generation Water Observing Systems (or NGWOS) program, the USGS will work with University of Alabama to deploy the automated portable microplastics sensor and collect side-by-side samples for validation of the research methods. Deployment will be in early 2024.