PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION OF THE FALL MECHANICS OF MICROPLASTICS PARTICLES IN AIR
Force system analysis for different particle shapes (Zingg 1935) showed that the drag force on the particles at terminal velocity is equivalent to the gravitational force acting on the same particle. A closed system drop test without evacuation enabled calculation of the drop force using known normalized drag coefficients and measured average mass and surface area of microplastic particles. This method facilitated calculation of terminal velocities for each of Zingg’s (1935) shape categories. Applying the empirical equation of Gibbs, Matthews and Link (1971) to the terminal velocities for spheres and disks enabled graphing of the settling velocities for these shape classes as a function of their radii for the most common densities of microplastics. The maximum velocity of the test particles (spheres and disks) was 1.70 m/s. Kinematic analysis of the results of our settling experiments determined that terminal velocity was not achieved in our apparatus and so results were significantly lower than the theoretical terminal velocity derived from the Newtonian calculations.
This study, although preliminary, defines a flexible methodology for future study and comprises a first attempt at understanding the settling and terminal velocities in air for particles that are less dense than quartz.