Green solvent mediated extraction of micro- and nano-plastic particles from water

Jameson R. Hunter, Qi Qiao, Yuxuan Zhang, Qing Shao, Czarena Crofcheck, Jian Shi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The production of plastic and the amount of waste plastic that enters the ecosystem increases every year. Synthetic plastics gradually break down into particles on the micro- and nano-scale in the environment. The micro- and nano-plastics pose a significant ecological threat by transporting toxic chemicals and causing inflammation and cellular damage when ingested; however, removal of those particles from water is challenging using conventional separation methods. Deep eutectic solvents (DES), a new class of solvents composed of hydrogen bond donors and acceptors, have been proposed as a cheaper alternative to ionic liquids. Hydrophobic DES derived from natural compounds (NADES) show promise as extractants in liquid–liquid extractions. This study investigated the extraction efficiency of micro- and nano-plastics including polyethylene terephthalate, polystyrene, and a bioplastic polylactic acid from fresh water and saltwater using three hydrophobic NADES. The extraction efficiencies fall in a range of 50–93% (maximum % extraction) while the extraction rates fall between 0.2 and 1.3 h (as indicated by the time to extract half the theoretical maximum). Molecular simulations show a correlation between the extraction efficiency and the association between the plastics and NADES molecules. This study demonstrates the potential of hydrophobic NADES as extractants for removal of different micro- and nano-plastic particles from aqueous solutions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10585
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture under project accession no. 1018315 and the National Science Foundation under Cooperative Agreements 1632854. We thank Dr. Isabel Escobar and Dr. Jason Urine for allowing us to use the tensiometer and DLS instruments. We thank Can Liu for particle size distribution and zeta-potential test.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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