June 19, 2024
Materials Science

Scientists at the Korea Institute of Materials Science

Scientists at the Korea Institute of Materials Science (KIMS) have developed a groundbreaking technology that can quickly and accurately detect microplastics (MPs) using artificial intelligence (AI). MPs, which can pose risks to human health and the environment, are microscopic pieces of plastic that can be found in various sources, including water and food.

The research team, led by Dr. Ho Sang Jung, focused on developing an on-site applicable detection kit that can identify the type, number, and distribution of MPs within 20 minutes without any pre-treatment. The technology utilizes a plasmonic material in the form of a nanopocket that captures MPs on a paper filter and amplifies their optical signal. This enables highly sensitive detection, even at the nanometer scale.

To further enhance the accuracy of the detection, the researchers incorporated AI into the system. The AI was pre-trained on the unique Raman spectroscopy signals of MPs, allowing it to accurately determine whether the detected signal corresponds to MPs, even in the presence of interfering elements in the sample. This breakthrough eliminates the need for complex pre-treatment and analysis by skilled researchers, making it easier and more convenient to detect MPs in complex environments or human samples.

The technology also offers portability, as it can be used with a portable Raman spectrometer, facilitating on-site detection. The current methods for detecting MPs are often hindered by the need for complex pre-treatment, high-performance equipment, and skilled researchers. This new technology replaces the pre-treatment process with a filter and improves the sensitivity of the material, making it more accessible and efficient.

The development of this technology is crucial given the increasing concerns about environmental pollution and human health risks associated with MPs. It is well-known that MPs are released from everyday products such as beverage containers and snack bags. However, until now, there has been no effective method to detect micro or nano-sized MPs. Therefore, the need to establish an international standard detection method is imperative.

By commercializing this technology, the detection of MPs can be more easily and rapidly disseminated. This can potentially lead to future regulations on plastic products and food and beverage containers. The technology’s portable and user-friendly nature also allows for easy use by the general public when necessary. Additionally, the research team plans to collaborate with the KOTITI Testing & Research Institute to standardize the detection technology and continue their research on the size and toxicity evaluation of MPs to the human body.

Dr. Ho Sang Jung expressed his excitement about the commercialization of this technology and its potential impact on ensuring the safety of people and future generations. KIMS aims to further develop material technologies that prioritize the safety and well-being of the public.

This breakthrough technology represents a significant step forward in the detection and monitoring of microplastics. As the prevalence and impact of MPs continue to grow, this innovative solution could play a vital role in mitigating the environmental and health risks associated with plastic pollution.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it