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IISc Designed a Hydrogel to Remove Microplastics from Water

Utkarsh Classes Last Updated 15-04-2024
IISc Designed a Hydrogel to Remove Microplastics from Water Science 3 min read

Scientists at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have created a sustainable hydrogel to tackle the issue of plastic pollution. 

  • The hydrogel has a unique polymer network that can bind and degrade microplastics found in water using UV light irradiation.
  • Microplastics are tiny particles of plastic that are less than 5 millimetres in size and have spread across the planet, from oceans to mountains. These tiny particles can enter our bodies through the water we drink, posing a serious threat to our health. 
  • Although scientists have attempted to eliminate microplastics through filtering membranes, the membranes tend to become clogged with the particles, making them unsustainable. 
  • As a result, the IISc team led by Professor Suryasarathi Bose, from the Department of Materials Engineering, turned to 3D hydrogels as a solution.

About hydrogel discovery

  • Microplastics are small pieces of plastic that are less than five millimetres long and can cause harm to our oceans and aquatic life. 
  • A team of researchers has developed a hydrogel made up of three different polymer layers: chitosan, polyvinyl alcohol, and polyaniline. 
  • This hydrogel has the ability to adsorb and degrade large amounts of microplastics. The team infused the hydrogel with nanoclusters of a material called copper substitute polyoxometalate (Cu-POM), which are catalysts that can use UV light to degrade microplastics. 
  • The scientists crushed plastic lids and other common household items to make two types of microplastics found in nature: polyvinyl chloride and polypropylene.The hydrogel was highly efficient, removing about 95% and 93% of the two types of microplastics in water at near-neutral pH (∼6.5). 
  • The scientists used a special coloring agent on the small plastic particles to keep track of how much of it was absorbed and broken down by a type of gel in different conditions.
  • Once the hydrogel has reached the end of its usefulness, it can be repurposed into carbon nanomaterials that are capable of removing heavy metals from polluted water. 
  • The researchers plan to develop a device that can be deployed on a large scale to help clean up microplastics from various water sources.


Answer: Indian Institute of Science (IISc)

Answer: Less than five millimeters
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