Science Brief: Flex Those Filtration Mussels

Photo by Gil Ndjouwou on Unsplash

By Melina Cantagallo, age 13

Mussels are most often thought of as just a food, but they could potentially be used to free our oceans of toxic microplastics. 

Microplastics are small pieces of plastic sometimes too small for the human eye to see, which makes them extremely difficult to filter. On a typical day, a mussel can filter 25 liters of water, according to professor Pennie Lindeque. 

Lindeque is the head of science for marine ecology and biodiversity at Plymouth Marine Laboratory in England, where scientists are conducting trials to measure the filtration abilities of mussels. It was determined that the 300 mussels used in the initial trial were able to filter 25% of the microplastics present in the water, equivalent to 250,000 pieces of plastic per hour. 
The researchers have found that the excrement of the mussels after filtering microplastics could potentially be used as biofuel in the future as it is rich in carbon. Lindeque, in an interview with Fast Company, assured that “all this happens without any harm to the mussels.”

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