Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Airborne microplastic sampling and characterization

Diana Ortiz-Montalvo and Abigail Lindstrom conducting Air Sampling
Diana Ortiz-Montalvo (left) and Abigail Lindstrom (right) working on collecting air samples at a recycling facility.

The Microplastics and Nanoplastics Metrology project team in the Materials Measurement Science Division has a research interest in understanding, sampling, and quantifying airborne microplastics and nanoplastics.  While there are health and safety questions related to airborne microplastic particles, there are also concerns related to climate as illustrated in a recent Nature article. The challenge associated with direct air sampling in a real-world setting is related to the heterogeneous mixture of organic and inorganic particulates that exists, a range of particle sizes and a lack of validated methods for sampling and identifying airborne microplastic and nanoplastic particles.

To that end, Abigail Lindstrom, Joseph Conny, and Diana Ortiz-Montalvo are developing the tools to sample microplastics at a municipal recycling facility.  Initial onsite work started in the summer of 2021 and employed novel sampling methodologies developed at NIST.  The long-term goals of this project are to develop validated methods for sampling airborne microplastics and apply analytical tools to identify and separate the plastic particles from other materials using optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and Raman Microscopy.

Images collected of airborne particles
Optical and electron microscopy images employed to identify candidate MNP particles (P) and fiducial markers (F) to enable locating the particles for chemical identification using other methods.


Nanomaterials Research Group

Created May 4, 2022, Updated August 15, 2023