Nanoplastic Sizes and Numbers: Quantification by Single Particle Tracking

Plastic particles have been found almost everywhere in the environment, in oceans, terrestrial water bodies, sediments and air. The extend of this unwanted contamination is difficult to fully capture. Existing quantification methods focus on the detection of millimeter to micrometer sized plastic particles, while plastic breakdown processes continue to smaller, nanometer sized, particles. For these nanoplastics methods that are inexpensive and can be (semi-) automated for high throughput analysis of dilute nanoplastic particle suspensions, are lacking. ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Here we combine sensitive fluorescence video microsopy, NileRed staining of plastic particles, and Single Particle Tracking (SPT) to count and size nanoplastics. With this approach we show that particle diameters as low as 40 nm can be extracted, mixing ratios can be recovered, and number concentrations as low as 2·106 particles/ml can be determined. These results indicate that this approach is promising for the quantification of sizes and concentrations of nanoplastics in environmental samples.