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Pollutant diffusion in polymers

Due to intensive use of plastic in many areas of our life, it often ends up in the environment mainly through insufficient garbage collection in emerging and developing countries. Here, larger plastic parts degrade over time to so-called micro- and later nanoplastics. These plastic particles can sorb other released pollutants and get into the food chains of higher living beings through ingestion by organisms. In addition, plastics can release environmentally harmful fillers over time. In particular, the uptake of environmental toxins by plastics has so far not been adequately investigated from the point of view of the applicants, since the majority of the studies assume that the pollutants cannot penetrate the solid volume of the plastic particles and are only adsorbed on the particle surface. As could be shown in preliminary work, the transport into the particle (absorption) has a not negligible share when considering the total storage capacity.


Left: Scheme, which shows the interaction of chemical pollutants with plastics

Right: Absorption experiment of hexachlorobenezene (HCP) by nylon. The nylon sample was analyzed by SIMS depth profiling. 2D- and 3D-plot of HCB distribution within the analysed volume element of the polyurethane sample. The interface between the polymer and solution is at 0 nm and at the upper side of the depicted cube, respectively. In both cases the ion m/z 281.8 (C6Cl6-) is plotted for HCB.