The Penn State engineer explains that the fact that large aggregates of bacteria and plankton form in the ocean and sink to the sea floor had long been known even though the prevailing theory could not account for the phenomenon. The settling of organic carbon on the ocean floor, in the form of plankton, bacteria and other biological material, is dominated by large aggregate sedimentation. This loss of organic carbon, which is made possible by coagulation, is an important component of maintaining the global atmospheric carbon dioxide balance.
Now, using the new approach developed by Logan, researchers not only can better understand the ocean processes but also can apply the new approach to enhancing coagulation and aggregation in industrial manufacturing or wastewater treatment.
In addition, in studying the ocean processes, Logan has identified a new particle he calls TEP, transparent exopolymer particles. TEP is formed of material made by plankton that helps it to stick together and coagulate. Logan described TEP in a 1993 paper, "The Abundance and Significance of a Class of Large, Transparent Organic Particles in the Ocean," in the journal Deep-Sea Research.