Analysing micro- and nanoplastics with cutting-edge infrared spectroscopy techniques: A critical review




Xie, Junhao
Gowen, Aoife
Xu, Wei
Xu, Junli


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The escalating prominence of micro- and nanoplastics (MNPs) as emerging anthropogenic pollutants has sparked widespread scientific and public interest. These minuscule particles pervade the global environment, permeating drinking water and food sources, prompting concerns regarding their environmental impacts and potential risks to human health. In recent years, the field of MNP research has witnessed the development and application of cutting-edge infrared (IR) spectroscopic instruments. This review focuses on the recent application of advanced IR spectroscopic techniques and relevant instrumentation to analyse MNPs. A comprehensive literature search was conducted, encompassing articles published within the past three years. The findings revealed that Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy stands as the most used technique, with focal plane array FTIR (FPA-FTIR) representing the cutting edge in FTIR spectroscopy. The second most popular technique is quantum cascade laser infrared (QCL-IR) spectroscopy, which has facilitated rapid analysis of plastic particles. Following closely is optical photothermal infrared (O-PTIR) spectroscopy, which can furnish submicron spatial resolution. Subsequently, there is atomic force microscopy-based infrared (AFM-IR) spectroscopy, which has made it feasible to analyse MNPs at the nanoscale level. The most advanced IR instruments identified in articles covered in this review were compared. Comparison metrics encompass substrates/filters, data quality, spatial resolution, data acquisition speed, data processing and cost. The limitations of these IR instruments were identified, and recommendations to address these limitations were proposed. The findings of this review offer valuable guidance to MNP researchers in selecting suitable instrumentation for their research experiments, thereby facilitating advancements in research aimed at enhancing our understanding of the environmental and human health risks associated with MNPs.



nanoplastic, micro- and nanoplastics (MNPs)


Funding for this research was provided by the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI)-Irish Research Council Pathway Programme Proposal ID 21/PATH-S/9290.


CC BY-NC 3.0 DEED Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported


Anal. Methods, 2024, 16, 2177