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New Publication Alert: Achieving Reliable Microplastic Suspension for Accurate Testing

Suspense? No, it’s suspension (of microplastics)!

Early last week, the Brigid Consortium Partners at Nederlandse Organisatie voor Toegepast Natuurwetenschappelijk Onderzoek (TNO) published a scientific article covering methods to improve the stability and reliability of micro and nanoplastic test materials. Now available on Environmental Pollution, the study, Suspension of micro- and nanoplastic test materials: liquid compatibility, (bio)surfactants, toxicity and environmental relevance, addresses the critical need for stable and replicable suspensions of test materials in microplastic research.

Micro and nanoplastics are found in virtually every corner of Earth. Yet, despite their widespread presence, much remains unknown about their potential health and environmental impacts. To bridge the data gap, scientists are working to create new reliable test materials that can be used in a variety of health and environmental studies.

One fundamental part of that research is ensuring test materials are put in a suspension which stay consistent between experiments. This ensures longer term chemical composition, size, and shape stability. The study also explored the chemical stability of nine common polymers in different liquids, including water, isopropanol, and ethanol.

While the TNO team initially used commercial compatibility charts to assess stability, an advanced approach using Hansen solubility parameters was later adopted to predict particle behaviour with further precision.

However, stability isn’t just about chemical composition; it also involves preventing particles from clumping together, known as agglomeration. In response, TNO researchers investigated how to predict and enhance the stability of these particles, aiming to identify which dispersants could be added to maintain uniform distribution.

The study also sought to rethink the role of bio-surfactants and the “eco-corona” in stabilising these particles. Bio-surfactants, which are natural compounds, and the eco-corona, or layers of biological material that can form around particles, may eventually offer better stability and environmental relevance.

By ensuring that test materials remain stable and reliable, scientists can obtain more accurate and consistent answers to many pressing questions. This work not only improves current research methodologies, but also sets the stage for future studies – within the Brigid project and beyond. As researchers continue developing the Brigid scientific plan, we move closer to gaining a better understanding of the still-unknown role microplastics play in our world.