Mechanism of nanoplastics capture by jellyfish mucin and its potential as a sustainable water treatment technology

Eric A. Ben-David, Maryana Habibi, Elias Haddad, Marei Sammar, Dror L. Angel, Hila Dror, Haim Lahovitski, Andy M. Booth, Isam Sabbah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The accumulation of nanoplastics (NPs) in the environment has raised concerns about their impact on human health and the biosphere. The main aim of this study is to understand the mechanism that governs the capture of NPs by jellyfish mucus extracted from the jellyfish Aurelia sp. (A.a.) and compare the capture/removal efficiency to that of conventional coagulants and mucus from other organisms. The efficacy of A.a mucus to capture polystyrene and acrylic NPs (∼100 nm) from spiked wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) effluent was evaluated. The mucus effect on capture kinetics and destabilization of NPs of different polymer compositions, sizes and concentrations was quantified by means of fluorescent NPs, dynamic light scattering and zeta potential measurements and visualized by scanning electron microscopy. A dosing of A.a. mucus equivalent to protein concentrations of ∼2–4 mg L−1 led to a rapid change in zeta potential from a baseline of −30 mV to values close to 0 mV, indicating a marked change from a stable to a non-stable dispersion leading to a rapid (<10 min) and significant removal of NPs (60 %–90 %) from a stable suspension. The A.a. mucus outperformed all other mucus types (0–37 %) and coagulants (0 %–32 % for ferric chloride; 23–40 % for poly aluminum chlorohydrate), highlighting the potential for jellyfish mucus to be used as bio-flocculant. The results indicate a mucus-particle interaction consisting of adsorption-bridging and “mesh” filtration. Further insight is provided by carbohydrate composition and protein disruption analysis. Total protein disruption resulted in a complete loss of the A.a. mucus capacity to capture NPs, while the breaking of disulfide bonds and protein unfolding resulted in improved capture capacity. The study demonstrates that natural jellyfish mucin can capture and remove NPs in water and wastewater treatment systems more efficiently than conventional coagulants, highlighting the potential for development of a new type of bio-flocculant.

Original languageEnglish
Article number161824
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - 15 Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023


  • Adsorption-bridging
  • Coagulants-flocculants
  • Dynamic light scattering
  • Fluorescence plate reader
  • Jellyfish Aurelia sp.
  • Zeta potential

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry


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