Development and harmonization of pyrolysis GC-MS methods for the identification and quantification of micro- and nanoplastics

Micro- and nanoplastics (MNP) are a health and environmental concern but little is known about the extent of the problem. Current analytical techniques are unable to reliably quantify MNP in environmental matrices. This is of societal importance to understand the concentrations we are exposed to and devise mitigation strategies.


In this study, the factors will be identified that disturb current analysis methods. The aim is to develop an improved method for the identification and quantification of MNP. They focus on the most health-relevant particle size, smaller than <10 μm.


First, they will develop the method. They use different plastic types, different particle sizes and different aging states (virgin and weathered). They will examine the influence of these factors on different thermoanalytical methods, including pyrolysis coupled to gas chromatography and mass spectrometry (Py-GC-MS). Advanced data analysis will be based on machine learning.

Then the researchers compare the method between laboratories, in order to ensure that the developed method is harmonized across a wide variety of systems. Five environmental samples will be used, including soil, water and air.

Finally, this study will connect with international projects and normalisation initiatives to ensure the method is widely accepted and implemented , including in routine analysis labs.

Collaboration partners

This project is carried out by Ilke Adriaans, dr. A.M.B. Brunner, Jorg Roosma, Peter Tromp, Yvonne de Vroede and colleagues from TNO. TNO collaborates with KWR, Rijkswaterstaat, University of Amsterdam and the National normalization body (NEN).

(Expected) results

This project will result in an improved and harmonized method to reliably identify and quantify MNP in environmental matrices, with a focus on particles smaller than 10 μm. A much greater understanding of the influence of the matrix, weathering and plastic composition will be gained. The method will also be demonstrated to provide reliable and comparable results, independent of the equipment. This is essential for proper human risk assessment, policy making and further understanding MNP chemistry.


Project number:
Duration: 29%
Duration: 29 %
Part of programme:
Project lead and secretary:
I Adriaans
Responsible organisation: