Faculty Sponsor

Julie Peller


Arts and Sciences


Environmental Chemistry

ORCID Identifier(s)

https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0200-7807; https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8557-8519; https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0884-3825

Presentation Type

Poster Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 4-28-2022


Plastic pollution is a growing issue and has been found increasingly in our water systems. Given the massive, global extent of this pollution, it is important to understand the chemical reactivity of these plastics in water. Plastics fragment and weather over time, often turning into micro- and nanoplastics. Microplastics (MP) are plastic pieces smaller than 5 mm, and are a significant part of the plastic pollution in surface waters. The separate classification of nanoplastics (NP) was more recently adopted for plastic particles smaller than a micrometer. Nanoplastics display different properties and interactions. In our research, we discovered that microplastics, which do not mix with water, can be converted to nanoplastics upon the addition of certain chemical additives and vigorous mixing. These nanoparticles disperse evenly in water, similar to other colloidal solutions. The presence and size of the NP were studied using Raman spectroscopy, darkfield and lightfield microscopy and particle size analysis. We show that nanoplastics can be readily formed from a number of different plastics including common plastics, such as polyethylene (PE) milk jugs, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) water bottles, and polycarbonate (PC) safety glasses. This formation of nanoplastics is concerning, as it suggests they are more abundant and bio-available in natural environments than currently estimated. This could be a valuable step in chemically recycling plastic materials.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

Joe Castleman, Chemistry and Psychology double major

Scott Kaiser, Chemistry major