Characterization of Microplastics in Clouds over Eastern China
- Xinmiao XuXinmiao XuSchool of Environmental Science and Engineering, Shandong University, Qingdao 266237, ChinaMore by Xinmiao Xu
- Tao Li
- Jiebo ZhenJiebo ZhenSchool of Environmental Science and Engineering, Shandong University, Qingdao 266237, ChinaMore by Jiebo Zhen
- Yuqian JiangYuqian JiangSchool of Environmental Science and Engineering, Shandong University, Qingdao 266237, ChinaMore by Yuqian Jiang
- Xiaoling NieXiaoling NieSchool of Environmental Science and Engineering, Shandong University, Qingdao 266237, ChinaMore by Xiaoling Nie
- Yan Wang*
- Xian-Zheng Yuan
- Xinfeng Wang
- Likun Xue
- , and
- Jianmin Chen
Airborne microplastics (MPs) have the potential to travel a long distance and undergo several cloud processes through atmospheric transport. However, little is known about the interactions between MPs and clouds. Here, we present field evidence for the presence of abundant and various MPs in cloudwater samples collected at Mt. Tai (1545 m asl.) in eastern China, with an average concentration of 463 MP L–1 in cloudwater, i.e., 0.21 MP m–3 in air. The cloud MPs had a broad size range of 8–1542 μm with 60% being smaller than 100 μm and dominant shapes of fragments with diverse polymers and darker colors. The concentrations of MPs were influenced by cloud liquid water content, source regions, and trajectory height, while the shapes and sizes appeared to be associated with long-range transport or localized sources. The roughened surface of cloud MPs indicated photochemical aging, which likely increased their adsorption capability for toxic metals (e.g., Pb, Hg) as confirmed by laboratory photoaging and adsorption simulations in ambient air, ultrapure water, and cloudwater. More research is needed to understand microplastic–cloud interactions and the potential impacts on atmospheric metal cycles and cloud formation.
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