Microplastics at the ocean surface: waves, turbulence, and particles


Monday, April 1, 2024 - 3:30pm to 4:30pm


ESB 1001


Professor Michelle DiBenedetto

Microplastic pollution poses a critical threat to the world’s oceans, but critical knowledge gaps surrounding plastic fate and transport impede remediation and prevention efforts. Predicting the behavior of microplastics is non-trivial for two primary reasons: their physical properties (size and density) are fundamentally different from traditionally studied environmental particles like sediment and bubbles, and complex interactions among waves, turbulence, and particle inertia in the ocean surface boundary layer (where most microplastics reside) are not well-understood, especially for buoyant particles such as microplastics. In this talk, I will discuss the importance of surface waves in predicting the transport and distribution of microplastics. I will present results from both an analytical study and laboratory experiments of particles in wavy flows, and discuss implications for microplastic transport in the ocean.


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