Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 410, Issue 25, pp 6663–6676 | Cite as

Optimization, performance, and application of a pyrolysis-GC/MS method for the identification of microplastics

  • Ludovic Hermabessiere
  • Charlotte Himber
  • Béatrice Boricaud
  • Maria Kazour
  • Rachid Amara
  • Anne-Laure Cassone
  • Michel Laurentie
  • Ika Paul-Pont
  • Philippe Soudant
  • Alexandre Dehaut
  • Guillaume DuflosEmail author
Research Paper


Plastics are found to be major debris composing marine litter; microplastics (MP, < 5 mm) are found in all marine compartments. The amount of MPs tends to increase with decreasing size leading to a potential misidentification when only visual identification is performed. These last years, pyrolysis coupled with gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (Py-GC/MS) has been used to get information on the composition of polymers with some applications on MP identification. The purpose of this work was to optimize and then validate a Py-GC/MS method, determine limit of detection (LOD) for eight common polymers, and apply this method on environmental MP. Optimization on multiple GC parameters was carried out using polyethylene (PE) and polystyrene (PS) microspheres. The optimized Py-GC/MS method require a pyrolysis temperature of 700 °C, a split ratio of 5 and 300 °C as injector temperature. Performance assessment was accomplished by performing repeatability and intermediate precision tests and calculating limit of detection (LOD) for common polymers. LODs were all below 1 μg. For performance assessment, identification remains accurate despite a decrease in signal over time. A comparison between identifications performed with Raman micro spectroscopy and with Py-GC/MS was assessed. Finally, the optimized method was applied to environmental samples, including plastics isolated from sea water surface, beach sediments, and organisms collected in the marine environment. The present method is complementary to μ-Raman spectroscopy as Py-GC/MS identified pigment containing particles as plastic. Moreover, some fibers and all particles from sediment and sea surface were identified as plastic.

Graphical abstract


Microplastics Pyrolysis Gas chromatography Method Environmental samples 



Ludovic Hermabessiere is grateful to the Hauts-de-France Region and ANSES (French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety) for the financial support of his PhD. Maria Kazour is financially supported by a PhD fellowship from the National Council for Scientific Research (Lebanon) and Université du Littoral Côte d’Opale (France).

Funding information

This paper has been funded by the French National Research Agency (ANR) (ANR-15-CE34-0006-02), as part of the nanoplastics project and also by the French government and the Hauts-de-France Region in the framework of the project CPER 2014-2020 MARCO.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

216_2018_1279_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1003 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 1002 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ludovic Hermabessiere
    • 1
  • Charlotte Himber
    • 1
  • Béatrice Boricaud
    • 1
  • Maria Kazour
    • 2
    • 3
  • Rachid Amara
    • 2
  • Anne-Laure Cassone
    • 4
  • Michel Laurentie
    • 5
  • Ika Paul-Pont
    • 4
  • Philippe Soudant
    • 4
  • Alexandre Dehaut
    • 1
  • Guillaume Duflos
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.ANSES, Laboratoire de Sécurité des AlimentsBoulogneFrance
  2. 2.UMR 8187, LOG, Laboratoire d’Océanologie et de Géosciences, CNRSUniversity of Littoral Côte d’Opale, University of LilleWimereuxFrance
  3. 3.CNRS, National Centre for Marine SciencesBatrounLebanon
  4. 4.Laboratoire des Sciences de l’Environnement Marin (LEMAR), UMR6539/UBO/CNRS/IRD/IFREMER, Technopôle Brest-IroiseInstitut Universitaire Européen de la MerPlouzanéFrance
  5. 5.ANSES, Plateforme PAS, Laboratoire de FougèresFougèresFrance

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