Desorption of Hydrophobic Organic Chemicals from Fragment-Type Microplastics

Hwang Lee, Da Eun Byun, Ju Min Kim, Jung Hwan Kwon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Microplastics provide an important medium for hydrophobic organic chemicals (HOCs), and the desorption of HOCs from microplastics is an important process for the dynamics of HOCs associated with microplastics. Although desorption kinetics has been studied for microplastics with ideal geometries, most of the microplastics isolated from the environment are irregular fragment-type microplastics. This study investigated the desorption of six model HOCs from polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) fragments to artificial seawater and compared the results with those predicted assuming ideal geometries (e.g., sphere and infinitely flat sheet) of microplastics. The experimental desorption was explained well by the model predictions with the characteristic radius for a sphere and the thickness for a plate estimated from visual imaging. The mass fraction remaining at the later stage of desorption was higher than the model simulation assuming a single characteristic length, likely due to the heterogeneity of the particle size distribution. Although there are inevitable uncertainties, it would be useful to assign a single length dimension in desorption modeling for even fragment-type microplastics, especially for the estimation of desorption half-life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)631-639
Number of pages9
JournalOcean Science Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Dec 1

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank Mr. Bookun Kim and Ms. Sun Ok Hong at Ajou University for the image analysis of the microplastic fragments. This study was partly supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF), grant No. 2015R1A2 A04003958, and a research project titled “Environmental Risk Assessment of Microplastics in the Marine Environment” from the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, Korea.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, Korea Institute of Ocean Science & Technology (KIOST) and the Korean Society of Oceanography (KSO) and Springer Nature B.V.


  • Biot number
  • desorption kinetics
  • diffusion coefficient
  • partition coefficient
  • plastic debris

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography


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