Study Plant-based filter removes up to 99.9% of microplastics from water (Jun 2023) Flowthrough Capture of Microplastics through Polyphenol-Mediated Interfacial Interactions on Wood Sawdust

Michael Harrop

Active member
Jul 6, 2023

Researchers may have found an effective, green way to remove microplastics from our water using readily available plant materials. Their device was found to capture up to 99.9% of a wide variety of microplastics known to pose a health risk to humans.

The health problems posed by nano- or microplastics and developing efficient ways to extract them from water have been the focus of recent research. Currently, there’s no practical technology available to universally and rapidly capture microplastics. But researchers from the University of British Columbia in Canada may have devised a biodegradable, renewable solution.

Their device, which they’re calling bioCap, exploits the properties of wood residues – including sawdust – and natural polyphenols, which generate strong molecular interactions with polymer particles, including many microplastics.

To create bioCap, the researchers used sawdust as a substrate through which to filter water, given its superior chemical and physical stability and the fact that it contains cellulose, hemicelluloses, and lignin, which facilitate efficient water transport. They modified the sawdust by adding tannic acid, a naturally occurring plant polyphenol found in almost all plants without underground root systems.


Nano-/microplastics accumulate in aquatic bodies and raise increasing threats to ecosystems and human health. The limitation of existing water cleanup strategies, especially in the context of nano-/microplastics, primarily arises from their complexity (morphological, compositional, and dimensional). Here, highly efficient and bio-based flowthrough capturing materials (bioCap) are reported to remove a broad spectrum of nano-/microplastics from water: polyethylene terephthalate (anionic, irregular shape), polyethylene (net neutral, irregular shape), polystyrene (anionic and cationic, spherical shape), and other anionic and spherical shaped particles (polymethyl methacrylate, polypropylene, and polyvinyl chloride). Highly efficient bioCap systems that adsorb the ubiquitous particles released from beverage bags are demonstrated. As evidence of removal from drinking water, the in vivo biodistribution of nano-/microplastics is profiled, confirming a significant reduction of particle accumulation in main organs. The unique advantage of phenolic-mediated multi-molecular interactions is employed in sustainable, cost-effective, and facile strategies based on wood sawdust support for the removal of challenging nano-/microplastics pollutions.
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