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The Performance of Carbonate-Modified Nonionic Surfactants in Microplastic Flotation

Brüggemann, Daniel; Shojamejer, Tahereh; Tupinamba Lima, Michelle; Zukova, Dzenna; Marschall, Rahel; Schomäcker, Reinhard

For a group of nonionic surfactants with polar head groups synthesized by the copolymerization of ethylene oxide and carbon dioxide, the potential for their application in the foam flotation of microplastic particles was investigated. Their performance was compared to conventional that of nonionic surfactants and correlated with their adsorption behavior at the water–air surface through the maximum-bubble-pressure technique. The carbonate content of the surfactant head groups increased the biodegradability of the surfactants and affected their foaming properties and their performance in the flotation process. Since the inserted carbonate units increased the hydrophilicity of the whole surfactant but decreased the polarity of their headgroups, the number of carbonate units can be considered as an independent tuning parameter for adjusting these surfactants to a particular application. With this feature, the countercurrent trends of the two most important performance indicators, namely the removal rate and enrichment factor, can be resolved.
Published in: Water, 10.3390/w15051000, MDPI