Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 408, Issue 1, pp 295–305 | Cite as

A direct solid sampling analysis method for the detection of silver nanoparticles in biological matrices

  • Nadine S. Feichtmeier
  • Nadine Ruchter
  • Sonja Zimmermann
  • Bernd Sures
  • Kerstin LeopoldEmail author
Research Paper


Engineered silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) are implemented in food contact materials due to their powerful antimicrobial properties and so may enter the human food chain. Hence, it is desirable to develop easy, sensitive and fast analytical screening methods for the determination of AgNPs in complex biological matrices. This study describes such a method using solid sampling high-resolution continuum source graphite furnace atomic absorption spectrometry (GFAAS). A recently reported novel evaluation strategy uses the atomization delay of the respective GFAAS signal as significant indicator for AgNPs and thereby allows discrimination of AgNPs from ionic silver (Ag+) in the samples without elaborate sample pre-treatment. This approach was further developed and applied to a variety of biological samples. Its suitability was approved by investigation of eight different food samples (parsley, apple, pepper, cheese, onion, pasta, maize meal and wheat flour) spiked with ionic silver or AgNPs. Furthermore, the migration of AgNPs from silver-impregnated polypropylene food storage boxes to fresh pepper was observed and a mussel sample obtained from a laboratory exposure study with silver was investigated. The differences in the atomization delays (Δt ad) between silver ions and 20-nm AgNPs vary in a range from −2.01 ± 1.38 s for maize meal to +2.06 ± 1.08 s for mussel tissue. However, the differences were significant in all investigated matrices and so indicative of the presence/absence of AgNPs. Moreover, investigation of model matrices (cellulose, gelatine and water) gives the first indication of matrix-dependent trends. Reproducibility and homogeneity tests confirm the applicability of the method.

Graphical Abstract

Direct detection of silver nanoparticles in biological samples


Silver nanoparticle detection Direct solid sampling Graphite furnace atomic absorption spectrometry Silver nanoparticle entry in food Biological samples Robust screening method 



The authors are very grateful to Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft for their financial support of this work by project LE 2457/8-1.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Supplementary material

216_2015_9108_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (363 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 362 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nadine S. Feichtmeier
    • 1
  • Nadine Ruchter
    • 2
  • Sonja Zimmermann
    • 2
  • Bernd Sures
    • 2
  • Kerstin Leopold
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Institute of Analytical and Bioanalytical ChemistryUniversity of UlmUlmGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Aquatic EcologyUniversity of Duisburg-EssenEssenGermany

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