Identification and Characterization Methods for Microplastics Basing on Spatial Imaging in Micro-/Nanoscales

Part of the The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry book series (HEC, volume 95)


Microplastic pollution is a global problem in recent decades due to their ubiquity in the oceans, sediment, soil, or wastewater. The bioavailability and adsorbability for toxic chemicals of MPs have detrimental effects upon living organisms. This work attempts to provide a critical overview on modern instrumentation and promising techniques for identifying and visualizing micro- or nanoplastics. Fourier transform infrared spectrum (FT-IR) and Raman spectroscopies combined with microscopies, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), hyperspectral imaging (HSI), and confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) were widely used in the identification and visualization of microplastics in organisms and environments. The advantages and limitations of each identification and characterization method were indicated for MP analysis basing on spatial imaging in micro-/nanoscales. In addition, some novel methods may possibly be applied to micro-/nanoplastics identification, such as atomic force microscope (AFM), which may be used to identify and characterize the surface morphology, chemical composition, thermal and mechanical properties of MPs at the nanoscale. However, there is a need to improve and develop new methods to reduce the identification time and effort for sub- or nanomicron plastics and obtain more useful physical and chemical information in environmental MPs.


Characterization Identification Microplastics Spatial imaging 



The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support by the Natural Science Foundation of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (Grant No. 2018D01A38), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 41907140), and the West Light Foundation of Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant No. 2016-QNXZ-B-15).


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Desert and Oasis EcologyXinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of SciencesUrumqiChina
  2. 2.Xinjiang Key Laboratory of Environmental Pollution and BioremediationXinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of ScienceUrumqiChina
  3. 3.Institute of Soil Science, Chinese Academy of SciencesNanjingChina
  4. 4.Yantai Institute of Coastal Zone Research, Chinese Academy of SciencesYantaiChina
  5. 5.Key Laboratory of Microbial Technology for Industrial Pollution Control of Zhejiang ProvinceCollege of Environment, Zhejiang University of TechnologyHangzhouChina

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