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Spectroscopic analysis of microplastic


Pollution of the environment with microplastics is a global problem, which received more attention in recent years and will be of growing significance in the future. Microplastics is the designation for particles of plastics with a size smaller than 5 mm. The sources of microplastics are either plastic particles of original small size before they enter the environment, like microfiber in clothing or microbeads in personal care products or they originate from the degradation of larger plastic pieces like bottles.  The small particles may be incorporated by animals and become a part of the food chain esp. in a maritime environment. Our introduction to the problems with plastic provides further information.

The field of research of microplastics is quite new and therefore the methods of research have to be developed further and standardized in order to achieve comparable results. The great difference in the use of research methods leads to incomparable results for the grade of pollution in different aquatic systems, the methods are also often not very liable and not time and cost-efficient.

Microplastics research in Marburg

Zwei Forschende der AG Halbleiterphotonik begutachten Polymerproben, die mit dem Fluoreszenzfarbstoff Nile Red angefärbt und mit blauem Licht beleuchtet wurden. Man kann erkennen, dass unterschiedliche Polymertypen in unterschiedlichen Farben leuchten.
Foto: Dheeraj Dhavaleswarapu
Julia Prume und Srumika Konde betrachten angefärbte Kunststoffpartikel​ (Foto: Dheeraj ?)

Since March 2018 the semiconductor research group in Marburg has a subdivision for the research of microplastics. Our main objective is the development of spectroscopic methods for the fast and liable detection, quantification and identification of microplastics in sediment samples.

Sediment samples of rivers, lakes, and beaches are processed by our Microplastics Sediment Separator (MPSS) and then microscopically analyzed. Parallel we test new spectroscopic methods. For example, we are experimenting with the conditions for dyeing different types of plastics with fluorescent colors and their discriminability.


Exploring the potential of photoluminescence spectroscopy in combination with Nile Red staining for microplastic detection
S. Konde, J. Ornik, J. A. Prume, J. Taiber, and M. Koch
Marine Pollution Bulletin 159, 111475 (2020) [DOI]

Could photoluminescence spectroscopy be an alternative technique for the detection of microplastics? First experiments using a 405 nm laser for excitation
J. Ornik, S. Sommer, S. Gies, M. Weber; C. Lott, J.C. Balzer, and M. Koch
Applied Physics B, B 126, 15 (2020)

Investigating the potential of UV-excited photoluminescence spectroscopy for the identification of plastics
Sebastian Gies, E.-M-Schömann, Y. Radiev, J. Prume, M. Koch
Poster und Konferenzpaper, präsentiert auf der CEST2019-Konferenz, Rhodos (09-2019)

A methodological protocol to extract microplastics from river sediments (bed, bank, and floodplain)
Julia Prume, E.-M. Schömann, P. Chifflard, M. Koch
Poster und Konferenzpaper, präsentiert auf der CEST2019-Konferenz, Rhodos (09-2019)

Inter-study comparison of nile red-based staining protocols for the detection of microplastics in environmental samples
Srumika Konde, J. Ornik, J. A. Prume, J. Taiber, M. Koch
Poster präsentiert auf der Microplastics2018-Konferenz, Ascona (2018)

Citizen Lab for microplastics

In the Citizen Lab for microplastics research, enthusiastic citizens may conduct research on sediment samples in order to acquire quantitative data on the pollution of samples with microplastics. The project is supported by the BMBF (Federal Ministry of Education and Research) and started in autumn 2018, it will continue till spring 2020.

Foto: Gesa Coordes


Julia Prume