Coupling single particle ICP-MS with field-flow fractionation for characterizing metal nanoparticles contained in nanoplastic colloids




Barber, Angela
Kly, Sun
Moffitt, Matthew G.
Rand, Logan
Ranville, James F.

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Environmental Science: Nano


Use of nano-enabled products increases the potential for release of engineered nanoparticles (ENP) into the environment. Product weathering and further environmental transformations can create composite particles (CPs) that may contain multiple ENPs, a residual product matrix (e.g. polymer), or transformed/added surface coatings. Methodology that uses transmission electron microscopy (TEM), single particle ICP-MS (spICP-MS) and field-flow fractionation (FFF) was developed to facilitate the investigation of metallic ENPs associated with CPs. In this study, colloidal-sized nanoplastic CPs consisting of a gold–polymer nanocomposite (polystyrene-block-poly(acrylic acid)) were examined to reveal how combining FFF with spICP-MS can be used to characterize CPs. Metal NP size and particle number concentration is obtained by spICP-MS. Asymmetric flow field-flow fractionation (AF4) and centrifugal field-flow fractionation (CFFF) separate and size the CPs based on their hydrodynamic diameter and buoyant mass, respectively. Off-line spICP-MS analysis of fractions obtained by the FFF separations facilitated measurement of the mass and number of Au–PS (gold–polystyrene) ENPs (from 1 to >8) contained in the CPs. In particular, CFFF utilizing a carrier that was density-matched to the polymer proved very successful in measuring multiple gold ENPS in the CPs. The developed methodology can be applied to investigate ENP properties in environmental systems.



Centrifugal FFF, AF4, polymer nanocomposite, nanotechnology, heteroaggregates


Barber, A., Kly, S., Moffitt, M. G., Rand, L., & Ranville, J. F. (2020). Coupling single particle ICPMS with field-flow fractionation for characterizing metal nanoparticles contained in nanoplastic colloids. Environmental Science: Nano, 2(7), 514-524.