Microstructure Characterization of Oceanic Polyethylene Debris


  • Rowenczyk Laura
  • Dazzi Alexandre
  • Deniset-Besseau Ariane
  • Beltran Victoria
  • Goudounèche Dominique
  • Wong-Wah-Chung Pascal
  • Boyron Olivier
  • George Matthieu
  • Fabre Pascale
  • Roux Clément
  • Mingotaud Anne-Françoise
  • ter Halle Alexandra


  • Polymer
  • Nanoplastic
  • Microplastic photodegradation
  • Plastic weathering

document type



Plastic pollution has become a worldwide concern. It was demonstrated that plastic breaks down to nanoscale particles in the environment, forming so-called nanoplastics. It is important to understand their ecological impact, but their structure is not elucidated. In this original work, we characterize the microstructure of oceanic polyethylene debris and compare them to the nonweathered objects. Cross-sections are analysed by several emergent mapping techniques. We highlight deep modifications of the debris within a layer a few hundred microns thick. The most 2 intense modifications are macromolecule oxidation and a considerable decrease in the molecular weight. The adsorption of organic pollutants and trace metals is also confined to this outer layer. Fragmentation of the oxidized layer of the plastic debris is the most likely source of nanoplastics. Consequently nanoplastic chemical nature differ greatly from plastics.

more information