An emerging method for the separation and characterisation of manufactured nanoparticles in complex environmental samples

L. Chekli, S. Phuntsho, J. Kandasamy, H. Shon
University of Technology Sydney, AU

Keywords: manufactured nanoparticles, field-flow fractionation, particle-size analysis, separation, characterisation, environmental samples


Manufactured nanoparticles (MNPs) are increasingly released to the environment. In spite of this growth, information about the fate and toxicity of nanoparticles in the environment is limited, partly due to the lack of techniques capable of measuring nanoparticles in complex environmental matrices. One emerging tool, field-flow fractionation (FFF), can be used to determine the presence and particle size distribution of engineered nanoparticles, for example in soil pore waters, thereby enhancing our understanding of their environmental fate and its impacts. Another advantage of FFF is that, it can be coupled directly with other instruments such as multi angled light scattering detectors (MALS), UV-vis, fluorescence detectors or inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) which can make the FFF technique even more versatile. The purpose of this review is to present this emerging method and in particular, its application for the separation and characterisation of MNPs present in the complex environmental samples such as soil and water. Principles and theory of flow FFF (FlFFF) will be first briefly presented followed by review on the potential coupling of this technique with the existing and modern detectors to analyse environmental samples more reliably. The limitations of FlFFF techniques will be also be discussed.