Microplastics; A growing concern and a need to identifying the Threat- Solutions through Science

Krystelle Mafina, Discovery & Analytical Solutions, PerkinElmer LAS ltd, Seer Green, UK (marc-krystelle.mafina@perkinelmer.com)
Ian Robertson, Discovery & Analytical Solutions, Perkinelmer Las Ltd, Seer Green, Uk
Kathryn Lawson-Woods, Discovery & Analytical Solutions, Perkinelmer Las Ltd, Seer Green, Uk

There is an increasing concern about the amount of plastic materials observed floating in the World’s rivers and oceans. However, the bigger concern is now the microplastics, too small to be visible to the naked eye, that are entering into the river and marine environments; and ultimately into the food chain. Infrared Spectroscopy and Microscopy are well- established analytical techniques for the detection and identification of plastic materials. And have been used to further the understanding of the microplastic threat through our users around Europe. This presentation demonstrates the useful application of these techniques in a real-world setting.   

Infrared (IR) spectroscopy is the established technique for identifying polymer materials and has been used extensively for identifying large (over 100 micrometer) polymer materials. The Spectrum Two™ is a portable FT-IR spectrometer that can operate from a battery pack and has been used on boats for immediate identification of these polymers1. For microplastics, down to a few micrometers in size, an IR microscope (Spotlight200iTM or Spotlight400TM) can be used for the detection and identification of these materials2. There are two forms of microscope measurement: (1) in-contact using a diamond micro-ATR or ATR Germanium-Crystal imaging; and (2) non-contact measurement such as transmission or reflection imaging. With the help of software packages Spectrum10 and Spectrum Image, appropriate and reproducible data can be collected.

Large and small particles of microplastics can be scanned, imaged and identified successfully. Using the different measurement options for the infrared spectroscopy and microscopy provides flexibility in choosing the most appropriate method for the given analytical opportunity that will hopefully lead to a full characterisation, and thus a better understanding of the microplastic threat in the rivers and oceans across the World.


Short Biography of Presenting Author

Field Aplication Specialist at PerkinElmer UK, responsible for training and application solutions for materials characterisation using InfraRed, UV-Vis-NIR and Thermal analytical techniques for now 3.5 years. I have over 8 years of experience with all 3 techniques and help support the EMEA Region with their various research, projects and queries. 


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