In a recently published article in the journal Matter, scientists describe their work using nanocoils to clean up microplastic pollution. The nanocoils result from a chemical reaction between manganese and carbon nanotubes, creating hollow, coiled nanostructures that produce free radicals. The nanocoils can be added to water, where the free radicals can decompose microplastics, eventually converting them into carbon dioxide and water. When the cleanup of the microplastic is complete, scientists can remove the nanocoils from the water using a magnet.
In the study, the nanocoils converted 50% of microplastics to carbon dioxide and water after an 8-hour, 160-degree incubation. By allowing the reaction to continue for a longer period of time, the scientist predict that 100% of the microplastics could be removed, though the researchers also showed that even partially decomposed microplastics may serve as an organic food source for algae.