Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 407, Issue 22, pp 6791–6801 | Cite as

Identification of microplastics by FTIR and Raman microscopy: a novel silicon filter substrate opens the important spectral range below 1300 cm−1 for FTIR transmission measurements

  • Andrea KäpplerEmail author
  • Frank Windrich
  • Martin G. J. Löder
  • Mikhail Malanin
  • Dieter Fischer
  • Matthias Labrenz
  • Klaus-Jochen Eichhorn
  • Brigitte Voit
Research Paper


The presence of microplastics in aquatic ecosystems is a topical problem and leads to the need of appropriate and reliable analytical methods to distinctly identify and to quantify these particles in environmental samples. As an example transmission, Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) imaging can be used to analyze samples directly on filters without any visual presorting, when the environmental sample was afore extracted, purified, and filtered. However, this analytical approach is strongly restricted by the limited IR transparency of conventional filter materials. Within this study, we describe a novel silicon (Si) filter substrate produced by photolithographic microstructuring, which guarantees sufficient transparency for the broad mid-infrared region of 4000–600 cm-1. This filter type features holes with a diameter of 10 μm and exhibits adequate mechanical stability. Furthermore, it will be shown that our Si filter substrate allows a distinct identification of the most common microplastics, polyethylene (PE), and polypropylene (PP), in the characteristic fingerprint region (1400–600 cm-1). Moreover, using the Si filter substrate, a differentiation of microparticles of polyesters having quite similar chemical structure, like polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polybutylene terephthalate (PBT), is now possible, which facilitates a visualization of their distribution within a microplastic sample by FTIR imaging. Finally, this Si filter can also be used as substrate for Raman microscopy—a second complementary spectroscopic technique—to identify microplastic samples.

Graphical Abstract

Optical and FTIR images of a microplastic model sample of PET and PBT on the novel Si filter substrate. The distribution of this quite similar polymers within a microplastic sample is visible by choosing a band region of 1060–1033 cm-1 for PET and of 955–925 cm-1 for PBT


Filter substrate Microplastic identification FTIR imaging Raman Silicon filter 



We thank Vincent Körber (IPF) and the construction team for technical support and Dr. Cordelia Zimmerer (IPF) for helpful discussion regarding FTIR imaging. The authors also would like to thank Rene Puschmann, Michael Lorenz, Tina Klembt, and Dr. Frank Menzel from Fraunhofer IZM-ASSID for assistance with manufacturing of the Si filter substrate. We are also grateful to Dr. Sonja Oberbeckmann (Leibniz IOW), Dr. Gunnar Gerdts (AWI, Helgoland), and Prof. Christian Laforsch (University of Bayreuth) for helpful discussion. Finally, we thank the Leibniz Association for financial support of the project “MikrOMIK.”


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrea Käppler
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Frank Windrich
    • 2
    • 3
  • Martin G. J. Löder
    • 4
  • Mikhail Malanin
    • 1
  • Dieter Fischer
    • 1
  • Matthias Labrenz
    • 5
  • Klaus-Jochen Eichhorn
    • 1
  • Brigitte Voit
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Leibniz Institute of Polymer Research DresdenDresdenGermany
  2. 2.Organic Chemistry of PolymersTU DresdenDresdenGermany
  3. 3.Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration - All Silicon System Integration DresdenMoritzburgGermany
  4. 4.Animal Ecology IUniversity of BayreuthBayreuthGermany
  5. 5.Leibniz Institute of Baltic Sea ResearchRostockGermany

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