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Detecting microplastics pollution in world oceans using SAR remote sensing

Davaasuren, Narangerel; Marino, Armando; Ackermann, Nicolas; Alparone, Matteo; Nunziata, Ferdinando and Boardman, Carl (2018). Detecting microplastics pollution in world oceans using SAR remote sensing. In: IGARSS 2018: IEEE International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium, 22-27 Jul 2018, Valencia, Spain.

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Abstract

Plastic pollution in the world’s oceans is estimated to have reached 270.000 tones, or 5.25 trillion pieces. This plastic is now ubiquitous, however due to ocean circulation patterns, it accumulates in the ocean gyres, creating “garbage patches”. This plastic debris is colonized by microorganisms which create unique bio-film ecosystems. Microbial colonization is the first step towards disintegration and degradation of plastic materials: a process that releases metabolic by-products from energy synthesis. These by-products include the release of short-chain and more complex carbon molecules in the form of surfactants, which we hypothesize will affect the fluid dynamic properties of waves (change in viscosity and surface tension) and make them detectable by SAR sensor.
In this study we used Sentinel-1A and COSMO-SkyMed SAR images in selected sites of both the North Pacific and North Atlantic oceans, close to ocean gyres and away from coastal interference. Together with SAR processing we conducted contextual analysis, using ocean geophysical products of the sea surface temperature, surface wind, chlorophyll, wave heights and wave spectrum of the ocean surface. In addition, we started experiments under controlled conditions to test the behaviour of microbes colonizing the two most common pollutants, polyethylene (PE) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) microplastics. The analysis of SAR images has shown that a combination of surface wind speed and Langmuir cells- ocean circulation pattern is the main controlling factor in creating the distinct appearance of the sea-slicks and microbial bio-films. The preliminary conclusion of our study is that SAR remote sensing may be able to detect plastic pollution in the open oceans and this method can be extended to other areas.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item
Copyright Holders: 2018 The Authors
Project Funding Details:
Funded Project NameProject IDFunding Body
The Open UniversityNot SetThe Open University (OU)
Keywords: Microplastics, Detection of surfactants, bio-films, SAR, Sentinel-1A, COSMO-SkyMed
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) > Engineering and Innovation
Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
Research Group: Space
Related URLs:
Item ID: 55223
Depositing User: Narangerel Davaasuren
Date Deposited: 15 Jun 2018 15:48
Last Modified: 15 Jun 2018 15:48
URI: http://oro.open.ac.uk/id/eprint/55223
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