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New Method Measures the Smallest Particles

News: Jan 28, 2014

Nanoparticles are used in rapidly increasing amounts in a large number of products. A new thesis from the University of Gothenburg describes the development of a technique that can be used to measure the number concentration of nanoparticles in a variety of environmental samples.

Nanoparticles are often referred to as particles smaller than 100 nanometers in diameter. Particles in this size range are potentially hazardous to health.

- To prevent a similar disaster like DDT or asbestos from happening, the researchers have already begun to investigate the risks of nanotechnology. It is also possible that in a few years specific chemicals legislation for nanoparticles will be introduced, says Jani Tuoriniemi at the Department of Chemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Gothenburg.

The particles are found in many products

Among the most common types of particles are zinc oxide (ZnO ) and titanium dioxide (TiO2), used ,in e.g. cosmetics and paints. Particles of silica (SiO2) are also produced in large quantities in order to, among other things, be used as polishes and coatings. Cerium dioxide (CeO2) is being tested as an additive to motor fuel which in the near feature may place large amounts of these particles in the environment. Silver particles are used as a germicide in bandages, textiles and disinfectant creams.

Need for characterization

Risk studies require that one can measure the sizes and the number of nanoparticles in a sample. Since a long time there have been methods available for doing it in clean, relatively concentrated solutions where the concentration is millions or billions of particles per milliliter.

But the levels of man-made (synthetic) nanoparticles in the environment today is no more than a few hundred particles per milliliter, while background levels of natural nanoparticles are often millions of times higher. Therefore, one needs to develop new techniques that are more selective, and sensitive enough to quantify the extremely low levels of synthetic nanoparticles.

- Sensitive and accurate measurement is a prerequisite for the investigation of chemicals risks, says Jani Tuoriniemi.

The thesis describes the development of a technique called Single Particle Inductively Coupled Masspectrometry which can be used to detect synthetic nanoparticles in several environmental samples.

Thesis name:
New Single Particle Methods for Detection and Characterization of Nanoparticles in Environmental Samples

Caption: The instrument in the picture is an Inductively Coupled Plasma Masspectrometer (ICPMS). It is used to count the number and determine the size of individual nanoparticles in liquid samples. It was used for measuring the levels of several particle types in treated wastewater.

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Originally published on: science.gu.se

Page Manager: Robert Karlsson|Last update: 11/17/2014
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