Identification of microplastics in water and sewage sludge now easier with new FTIR microscope

One of the main topics of the research group Water Treatment and Analysis at the Institute of Environmental Technology is the study of microplastics.

“Monitoring the occurrence of microplastics in the environment, identifying the sources of microplastics or determining the safety of different types of microplastics requires a lot of attention. The issue of microplastics in the environment is not yet covered by legislation, but there is an ongoing expert discussion at the EU level aimed at assessing the possibility of qualitative and quantitative determination of microplastics in the environment,” says Martina Vráblová, head of the research group Water Treatment and Analysis. “We are very pleased that we have been able to obtain funding for new instruments that will make the study of microplastics in water and beyond a little more efficient,” she adds.

One of the newly acquired instruments is an automated FTIR imaging microscope with a flat FPA detector from Bruker. This enables the measurement of infrared spectra of microplastics (MP) and, using a database, also their qualitative analysis. Thanks to special software it is also possible to determine the particle size and thus evaluate the microplastic content of the sample.
The FTIR microscope has a number of outstanding features compared to previously used methods:

  • It enables rapid analysis of microplastics and provides a large amount of information about the samples being studied.
  • It is possible to analyse microplastic particles from 5 mm to 1 micrometer in size.
  • The number, shape and size of particles can be monitored and the polymer type can be identified.
  • It provides a comprehensive set of information on the MPs analysed.
  • It is a non-destructive method so that the sample can be analysed by other methods and possibly preserved.

The microscope was acquired within the framework of the project Building Laboratory Capacity for the Determination of Microplastics in Drinking, Surface and Wastewater Waters and in Sediments and Sewage Sludge, supported by the Ministry of the Environment under the Operational Programme Environment 2021-2027 and co-financed by the European Union.