The fact that 94% of microplastics (MPs) ubiquitous in the environment are subject to natural weathering makes the aging study currently a research hotspot. This review summarized the physicochemical characteristics of MPs undergoing natural and artificial aging and evaluated current analytical methods used in aging studies. Besides, the differences in photoaging and aging induced by advanced oxidation processes (AOPs) were discussed, leading to a conclusion that AOPs composed of oxidant and ultraviolet (UV) irradiation can better facilitate the alteration of MPs compared to UV irradiation alone. In addition, the environmental behavior of aged MPs was outlined and their adsorption properties for organics and metals were highlighted as a result of combined effects of hydrophobic, π-π, diffusion, and hydrogen bond interaction. Furthermore, the mechanisms of photoaging and AOPs-initiated aging were analyzed, mainly the role of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and environmentally persistent free radicals (EPFRs). Finally, the applications of two-dimensional correlation spectroscopy (2D-COS) and three-dimensional fluorescence spectra using excitation emission matrix-parallel factor analysis (EEM-PARAFAC) were discussed for the aging process analysis. This overview plays an important role in explaining the aging characteristics of MPs and provides a theoretical foundation for further investigations into their toxicity and removal.
Keywords: 2D/COS; AOPs; Adsorption capacity; EEM-PARAFAC; Physicochemical characteristics; ROS.
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