Using Advanced Image Analysis Techniques to Quantitatively Measure Micro/Nano- Plastic Pollution


Plastics are being produced and used with ever increasing frequency, so much so, that plastic material has become the largest polluting debris in the environment. Plastic waste can then be broken into smaller pieces by physical & chemical processes into Microplastics (MPs, <5 mm) and nanoplastics (NPs, <1 mm).  Whilst it is not yet known whether the plastic chemicals or the physical particle itself is the predominant cause of MP/NPs toxicity, many studies have demonstrated different toxic effects of MPs in invertebrates, seabirds and mammals. As a result, the ubiquitous presence of MP/NPs in the environment and in everyday products makes human exposure inevitable.

Identifying plastics of different composition, shape, and size with a single technique is a difficult, time-consuming and expensive goal and currently there is no standardised method of identification and characterisation. As a result, there is lack of information about the presence of MP/NPs in different environmental matrices such as their effect on human health and rapid monitoring. This talk will be focused on describing the initial development of an automated microscopy technique to identify micro/nano-plastics and how standardised systems could be used to begin directing the mitigation strategies surrounding plastic waste.


Joe joined CSIRO’s Sustainable Mining Technologies research group in 2019, after undertaking a doctorate in Chemical Engineering at University of Nottingham. The focus of his PhD was developing advanced image analysis techniques to rapidly characterise pulverised fuels and combustion intermediates to predict and simulate their behaviour during power generation.

Since joining CSIRO, Joe has worked on a variety of research projects involving in the characterisation and resource evaluation of fuels and combustion products, urban dust pollution and raw materials in In-Situ Resource Utilisation (ISRU) through CSIRO's Space Technology FSP.  His current work includes the development of an integrated imaging system to characterise urban dust pollution and several ACARP (The Australian Coal Industry's Research Program) funded projects to evaluate the performance of Australian thermal coals when co-fired with sustainable biomasses and to explore the use of LIBS (laser induced breakdown spectroscopy) as a rapidly deployable field technology to estimate resource quality.  


206, Steele Building (#03). This seminar will be streamed using the video conferencing software, Zoom. If you would like the link, please email