Characterizing Micro- and Nanoplastics in Water and Tissue

Sample preparation and scale-bridging analysis with microscopies and spectroscopies

Microplastics (MPs), defined as particles <5 mm, and nanoplastics (NPs), defined as particles <1µm, are omnipresent in the open ocean, marine sediments, lakes and soils, drinking water, and the human food chain.

A growing body of studies has reported that concentration of MPs and NPs is taking place, especially in marine environments and from there onto our plates. According to Eriksen of 5gyres (, roughly 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris weighing over 250,000 tons in total are floating on ocean surfaces, with > 80% having originated from land-based sources.To characterize these M/NPs requires a scale-bridging combination of microscopies (light, electrons, ions, x-rays, probes) and spectroscopies (Raman, FTIR, Mass). And to study the impact on living animals and humans, characterization of these particles in complex matrices requires dedicated sample preparation.

In this webcast, the speaker will specify the challenges of scale-bridging analytics, in particular when identifying individual, identical M/NPs, and the various analytical techniques required to truly correlate physical and chemical properties at particle levels. The speaker will moreover demonstrate the strengths of scale-bridging analytics and will introduce correlative Raman-SEM technology as an enabler of this multi-modal analytics correlation at a single particle level.

Key Learnings

  • The challenges of true correlation of multi-modal analytics on individual M/NPs on filters and in more complex samples such as tissue
  • The power of correlative Raman-SEM to master true signal correlation on individual M/NPs
  • How to develop a dedicated sample preparation workflow to correlate a wealth of analytical modalities


Dr. Silke Christiansen

Department Head Correlative Microscopy and Materials Data
Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramics Materials and Systems – IKTS

Moderator: Sarah Hiddleston

Science Journalist
Nature Research for Nature Middle East

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