, Volume 17, Issue 5, pp 344-361

First online:

Nanoparticle analysis and characterization methodologies in environmental risk assessment of engineered nanoparticles

  • Martin HassellövAffiliated withDepartment of Chemistry, University of Gothenburg Email author 
  • , James W. ReadmanAffiliated withPlymouth Marine Laboratory
  • , James F. RanvilleAffiliated withDepartment of Chemistry & Geochemistry, Colorado School of Mines
  • , Karen TiedeAffiliated withCentral Science LaboratoryEnvironment Department, University of York

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Environmental risk assessments of engineered nanoparticles require thorough characterization of nanoparticles and their aggregates. Furthermore, quantitative analytical methods are required to determine environmental concentrations and enable both effect and exposure assessments. Many methods still need optimization and development, especially for new types of nanoparticles in water, but extensive experience can be gained from the fields of environmental chemistry of natural nanomaterials and from fundamental colloid chemistry. This review briefly describes most methods that are being exploited in nanoecotoxicology for analysis and characterization of nanomaterials. Methodological aspects are discussed in relation to the fields of nanometrology, particle size analysis and analytical chemistry. Differences in both the type of size measures (length, radius, aspect ratio, etc.), and the type of average or distributions afforded by the specific measures are compared. The strengths of single particle methods, such as electron microscopy and atomic force microscopy, with respect to imaging, shape determinations and application to particle process studies are discussed, together with their limitations in terms of counting statistics and sample preparation. Methods based on the measurement of particle populations are discussed in terms of their quantitative analyses, but the necessity of knowing their limitations in size range and concentration range is also considered. The advantage of combining complementary methods is highlighted.


Nanoparticles Nanoaggregates Nanometrology Analytical chemistry Particle size analysis