Analysis of macroplastics, microplastics and nanoplastics

When plastic products break down, tiny particles of plastic enter and accumulate in the environment. These are commonly referred to as microplastics, or macro- or nanoplastics depending on particle sizes.

How many microplastics are present in a sample or material? What is their origin? What are they made of? Could they be toxic to wildlife, humans or impact whole environments?

UKCEH’s microplastic laboratory services can provide answers to these questions and more. Through sample analysis, our scientists can confirm the concentration, type, shape, size of microplastics found in soil, slurry and inland or treated waters to name just some of the environments we have analysed. Our scientists are actively exploring new environments and samples in which to apply our methods. In the laboratory, our ecotoxicologists can also explore the toxic impacts of this microscopic plastic pollutant.

Contact us for further details and to explore opportunities to collaborate.

Sample analysis

UKCEH scientists have developed robust analytical techniques using state of the art equipment and referring to comprehensive historic datasets. Infrared and Raman spectroscopy allow for microplastics to be identified and quantified in environmental samples, whilst techniques like Raman Imaging Scanning Electron Microscopy-Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy (RISE-EDS) push our capabilities from the microscopic, down to the nanoscale.

Our analysis can determine:

  • the quantity of microplastics within a soil, slurry or water sample;
  • the composition type, shape and size of microplastics;
  • the toxicity of the different polymers to wildlife using laboratory testing.

Development of new microplastics analysis methodologies

We combine the breadth of our fieldwork across the world with the depth of our analytical methods to further research into microplastics and assess the exposure risk they present to the natural world, as well as to humans. We have highly skilled, long serving and enthused staff with collective experience and professional integrity. These scientists develop new methodologies to quantify and identify the composition of microplastics in samples from environments of ever-increasing complexity. UKCEH is incredibly well connected with personal relationships and professional networks and collaborates with research partners with complementary knowledge and expertise outside our science areas.

Contact us

For further information or opportunities to collaborate on microplastics analysis, please submit a contact form.