Utrecht researchers show how to detect nanoplastics in sea water

Degrading plastic waste ends up in the sea as very small particles, that can be harmful to aquatic life but also eventually to humans. It is very difficult to study the individual nanoparticles. Researchers from ICC have now demonstrated a technique that combines the spatial resolution of atomic force microscopy (AFM) with the chemical information from infrared (IR) spectroscopy, called photoinduced force microscopy. The researchers can now isolate and investigate particles as small as 20 nm. The new tool will allow researchers to closely monitor the degradation mechanism that leads to the formation of polystyrene nanoplastic particles, which will hopefully lead to strategies to combat the formation of the nanoplastics. First author Iris ten Have is a PhD student in the ICC group. The paper is accompanied by a cover image designed by Thomas Hartman.

The paper: Photoinduced Force Microscopy as an Efficient Method Towards the Detection of Nanoplastics, by Iris ten Have,  Adriaan Duijndam, Ramon Oord,  Hannie van Berlo‐van den Broek,  Ina Vollmer,  Bert Weckhuysen and  Florian Meirer (all ICC): Chemistry Methods, 1, 2021, 205-209 (https://chemistry-europe.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cmtd.202100017)