Capture and characterisation of microplastics printed on paper via laser printer's toners

Cheng Fang, Zahra Sobhani, Dandan Zhang, Xian Zhang, Christopher T. Gibson, Youhong Tang, Yunlong Luo, Mallavarapu Megharaj, Ravi Naidu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Microplastics are among the ubiquitous contaminants in our environment. As emerging contaminants, microplastics are still facing with lots of challenges on the characterisation, including their capture, identification and visualisation, particularly from a complex background. For example, when we print documents using a laser printer, we are printing microplastics onto paper, because the plastics are the main ingredient of the toner powder mixture. Characterisation of these microplastic mixture meets an even more complicated challenge, because plastic's signals might be shielded by other toner powder ingredients such as the pigments, the dyes, the black carbon, and the paper fabrics as well. To solve this challenge, we employ various techniques, including SEM, TEM, XPS, FT-IR, TGA and Raman, to characterise the microplastics printed via the toner powders. Interestingly, we show that Raman can distinguish and visualise the distribution of the microplastics from the complex background of the mixture. We estimate the millions of toner powders, each of which is ~4–6 μm in size, are printed out per A4 sheet as microplastics. The findings send a strong warning that millions of microplastics might be generated from the printing activities in our daily lives.

Original languageEnglish
Article number130864
Number of pages9
JournalChemosphere
Volume281
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021

Keywords

  • Algorithm
  • Laser printer
  • Microplastics
  • Raman mapping image
  • Toner powder

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