Microplastics Solutions

Microplastics

Microplastics solutions for a better life

Microplastics are small bits of plastic, 5 millimeters or less, and either engineered for end-products, or the result of environmental degradation of polymer-based trash.

Researchers have found microplastics in marine and terrestrial life. It invades the food chain, and it’s even been found in salt, sugar, beer, alcohol, and honey. Not to mention glaciers and rainwater.

Microplastic characterization and identification

Raman spectroscopy plays a key role in identifying the types and origins of microplastics. It’s part of the efforts to develop policies and procedures for controlling the amount of microplastics introduced into our ecosystem. We look at the issues you face, and its effect on the biosphere and human health. 

HORIBA solutions are suitable for beginners as well as for the most demanding users and our expertise and knowledge provide support as you study microplastics.

What are microplastics

What are microplastics

Learn what microplastics are, where it comes from and what risks it poses for our environment and ourselves.

Microplastics analysis

Microplastics Analysis

Follow the typical analysis workflow for microplastics separation, counting and identification by means of spectroscopic techniques, and the five key steps required.

HORIBA solutions

HORIBA Solutions for Microplastics

Discover a full solution for scientists by providing all the tools needed for microplastics analysis.

Testimonials

Watch and read testimonials from scientists working on microplastics.
 

Application notes & webinars

Microplastics applications

Read our application notes and listen to our on-demand webinars to see the results of HORIBA solutions.

Downloads

Download the microplastics brochure, microplastics e-book, and other valuable resources.
 

What are Microplastics

Microplastics are small bits of plastic, 5 millimeters or less, and either engineered for end-products, or the result of environmental degradation of polymer-based trash.

Researchers have found microplastics in marine and terrestrial life. It invades the food chain, and it’s even been found in salt, sugar, beer, alcohol, and honey. Not to mention glaciers and rainwater.

Primary versus secondary microplastics

What are microplastics?

Primary microplastics are directly released into the environment as small plastic particles. These are intentionally engineered particles, like those found in some consumer and industrial products. Cosmetics have used microplastics as abrasives.

Secondary microplastics are the result of the degradation of large plastic waste, like plastic bags and bottles, into smaller plastic fragments when exposed to our environment.

Why produce microplastics?

Manufacturers engineer primary microplastics because of the unique physical and chemical properties created by its small scale. Those properties include durability, rigidity and abrasiveness. Density, size, shape and composition influence its properties.

Scientists use microplastics in many areas, including cosmetics, personal care, detergents, paints/coatings/inks, industrial abrasives, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, wastewater treatment and construction.

But these particles often weather, degrade or abrade from environmental or physical events, ending up in our oceans and elsewhere.

Where do primary microplastics come from?

Ordinary consumer products are the source of most of the ocean’s primary microplastics, according to a study by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). That includes synthetic textiles, city dust, tires, road markings, marine coatings, personal care products and engineered plastic pellets.

What are the health risks of microplastics?

Microplastics can be toxic, depending on its composition. It can also act as a carrier of other molecules that cling to it. Some of those clinging molecules are bacterial, and others, viral.

Scientists fear the cumulative buildup of these toxins might affect the health of living organisms. Yet researchers are unsure about the volume of microplastics a body can tolerate or the damage it may cause.

What we do know is this - consuming microplastics can physically damage organs and leech hazardous chemicals like pesticides. Scientists have shown that these substances can weaken immune function and hinder growth and reproduction.

The World Health Organization reported in 2019 that the current level of microplastics in drinking water doesn't pose a health risk—yet. But the group said we need to know more.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins looked at the impact of eating seafood contaminated with microplastics. Their conclusion? The accumulated plastic we take in could damage the immune system and upset a gut's balance.

Still, the research on health effects are slim. Recent research, through particle analysis and Raman spectroscopy has begun to identify various microplastic types. Scientist are developing sampling, extraction and analysis methods so we can trace these particles back to its sources. That way, we can create public policy to address this potential threat.

Back to top.

Microplastics analysis workflow

Microplastics Analysis

A typical analysis workflow for Microplastics separation, counting and identification by means of spectroscopic techniques required five main steps: Sampling, sample preparation or sample pretreatment, filtration, measure/data acquisition and finally, analyze/report.

  1. Sampling
    The Sampling step involves the collection of a matrix and/or different matrices where the Microplastics presence must be investigated.
     
  2. Sample Preparation
    Sample pretreatment is one of the most important steps, since it can influence the accurate identification of the Microplastics during the measuring step. Indeed, the contribution of the matrices (and all the organic contaminants within them) which can interfere with the Microplastics identification must be eliminated.
     
  3. Filtration
    Filters must be carefully selected, considering the wide variety available. Three main characteristics must be considered: Filter size (microplastic concentration, analysis time etc… are driving the choice), filter material (the measurement technique that is tuning this) and pore sizes (which microplastic size we want to analyze).
     
  4. Measure/Data Acquisition
    This is the Chemical/Morphological Identification of the microplastics by the technique of choice. We propose Raman Microscopy, which allows the identification of organic and inorganic particles and assures the analysis of particles from the macro (1 to 5 mm), down to the micron and sub micron ranges.
     
  5. Analysis & Reporting
    Software is a key point for data manipulation and for presenting the results. HORIBA provides fully automated ease-of-use particle analysis software called ParticleFinder.

Back to top.

HORIBA solutions

The HORIBA bundle

Considering the Microplastic analysis workflow and the needs and challenges facing scientists approaching it, we developed a full solution to help our existing and future users by providing all the tools needed in a single bundle.

Our booklet

  • Provides you with an overview of the Microplastics world
  • Explains and details the protocols for sample preparation  
  • Summarizes the measurement techniques available and their Pros and Cons
  • Helps you understand Microplastic analysis tips and tricks 
  • Keeps you current. The booklet will be updated twice a year with new protocols, and other information

Filtration kit
A filtration apparatus to get started with Microplastic analysis.

Filters, filter holder and VRM (Video Raman Matching)
A box of Silicon filters with a dedicated holde, developed and optimized for the square filters to facilitate the analysis.

A VRM (Video Raman Matching) stage with patented NanoGPS technology to confidently localize your particles down to the minimum size range allowed.

Microplastics standard
A set of tablets with a mixture of polymers particles (PVC, …)  of known size distribution and number to validate your lab environment and workflow.

Choice of two Raman platforms

XploRA™ PLUS
Raman Spectrometer - Confocal Raman Microscope 

 

LabRAM Soleil
Raman Microscope

LabRAM Soleil Raman Microscope full view

Both Raman microscopes can be equipped with a standard detector (CCD - Charge Couple Device) or imaging detector (EMCCD - Electron Multiplied Charge Couple Device).

LabSpec 6 is the software platform common to both systems for complete instrument control and data processing, along with additional tools in the Microplastic package. It includes:

  • ParticleFinderTM
    ParticleFinderTM offers a user friendly tool for automated location, characterization and Raman analysis of particles. Hundreds or thousands of particles can be quickly located on a video image, analyzed for size and shape descriptors, and then chemically characterized using Raman spectroscopy.
  • KnowItAll®
    HORIBA Scientific collaborates with Wiley to offer the HORIBA Edition of the KnowItAll® Informatics system. This advanced software has an integrated environment for complete spectral searching, analysis and data mining. A seamless link is provided between the LabSpec 6 Software Suite and KnowItAll® - once a spectrum has been acquired, one click will export the data into KnowItAll® and initiate a search. From this point on, the full functionality of KnowItAll® is available for further data mining.

All Microplastics products

LabRAM Soleil
more LabRAM Soleil

Raman Microscope

XploRA™ PLUS
more XploRA™ PLUS

Raman Spectrometer - Confocal Raman Microscope

MacroRAM™
more MacroRAM™

Affordable Benchtop Raman Spectrometer

XploRA Nano
more XploRA Nano

AFM-Raman for Physical and Chemical imaging

LabRAM HR Evolution
more LabRAM HR Evolution

Confocal Raman Microscope

KnowItAll
more KnowItAll

Raman Spectral Searching

ViewSizer 3000
more ViewSizer 3000

Multi-Laser Nanoparticle Tracking Analysis (NTA)

Back to top.

Testimonials

Microplastics Researcher Videos

Microplastics explained part I

Dr. Chelsea Rochman breaks down what we know, what we don’t, and what we want to know. Alterra Sanchez describes the big risks and factors involved. 

Microplastics explained part II

What is Dr. Chelsea Rochman doing with microplastics? Part II gives us a look into the Rochman Lab and the work being done there. Alterra Sanchez tells us the importance of her research as well. 

HORIBA's Global Efforts in Microplastics Research

Download this special issue of HORIBA's bi-annual technical journal 'Readout'. In publication for over 30 years, the Readout is designed to help readers understand our proprietary products and technologies. 

The featured topic of this issue is “Microplastics and Nanoplastics: Analysis and Method Development.” This special issue illustrates the important work and many capabilities of HORIBA and leading academic researchers to analyze and monitor microplastics and nanoplastics.

Back to top.

Applications notes and webinars

Microplastics webinars

Watch the webinar: Analysis of Morphology and Chemical ID of Micro-Particles Using Particle Correlated Raman Spectroscopy

If you are interested analysing microplastics, sign up for the webinar sponsored by HORIBA Scientific with Spectroscopy Magazine

Analysis of Morphology and Chemical ID of Micro-Particles Using Particle Correlated Raman Spectroscopy

In this webinar, the technique of particle correlated Raman spectroscopy (PCRS) will be presented, and will be illustrated by representative application examples from fields including forensics, pharmaceuticals/cosmetics, and microplastics. Included will be a discussion of handling and preparation of a variety of sample types including powders, tablets, and suspensions.

Watch the webinar on using Raman spectroscopy for the characterization of Microplastics

If you are interested microplastics and how they threaten our environment and health, watch the webinar sponsored by HORIBA Scientific with Spectroscopy Magazine 

Tackling the Environmental Threat of Microplastics Using Raman Spectroscopy

Learn how Raman spectroscopy can be used to identify and characterize unknown microplastic samples, including pigments and additives.

Microplastics applications

Morphological and chemical characterizations of microplastic particles using ParticleFinderTM and Raman techniques
The assessment of microplastics in a marine environment is a multi-step process (sampling, extraction, detection and quantification of microplastics), in which each step is time consuming. Analyzing the chemical composition and morphology of microplastics represents a real challenge for answering crucial questions about the sources and fate of microplastics in aquatic environments. In this application note, we present a reproducible and time-effective method for fast and thorough morphological and chemical characterization of microplastics using a semi-automated scanning of particles coupled to micro-Raman spectroscopy. The rapid analysis of large number of collected particles allows for an exhaustive assessment of both large sample sizes and small subsamples.

Back to top.

Back to top.

REQUEST FOR INFORMATION

Do you have any questions or requests? Use this form to contact our specialists.