About this project
Microplastics particles, ranging from micron to millimetre in size, pose a significant risk to natural ecosystems and habitats. However, despite the potential ecological impacts from microplastics pollution, the ability to accurately predict microplastic transport by environmental flows (e.g. in rivers, estuaries and coastal currents) is limited.
Our limited understanding of microplastic transport arises due to the varying buoyancy of different microplastics, and the complexity of turbulent environmental flows. Lower-density plastics, prone to floating, are concentrated in fastest-flowing water; whereas higher-density plastics, prone to sinking, are transported more slowly. However, with densities similar to that of water microplastic suspension is sensitive to changes in environmental conditions, e.g. varying salinity, temperature and suspended sediment concentration.
The PhD will investigate the mechanics of suspension, and sedimentation, of microplastic particles in different flow conditions. Applied to large-scale models, research into particle suspension and sedimentation will enable prediction of the transport, fate, and impact of microplastics in real-world environments. The PhD will work, and collaborate, with other students as part of a new microplastics research cluster at the Energy and Environment Institute at the University of Hull.