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Quantification of carbon nanotubes in environmental matrices: Current capabilities, case studies, and future improvements



Elijah J. Petersen, D. X. Flores-Cervantes, Thomas Bucheli, Lindsay C. Elliott, Jeffrey A. Fagan, Alexander Gogos, Shannon Hanna, Antonio R. Montoro Bustos, Desiree L. Plata, Vytautas Reipa, Paul Westerhoff, Michael R. Winchester, Elisabeth Mansfield


Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have numerous exciting potential applications approaching commercialization. As such, quantitative measurements of CNTs in key environmental matrices (water, soil, sediment, and biological tissues) are needed to address concerns about their potential environmental and human health risks and to inform application development. However, standard methods for CNT quantification are not yet available. In this paper, we systematically and critically review each component of the current methods for CNT quantification including CNT extraction approaches, potential biases, limits of detection, and potential for standardization. This review reveals that many of the techniques with the lowest detection limits require uncommon equipment or expertise, and thus, they are not frequently accessible. Additionally, changes to the CNTs (e.g., agglomeration) after environmental release and matrix effects can cause biases for many of the techniques, and biasing factors vary amongst the techniques. Five case studies are provided to illustrate how to use this information to inform real-world scenarios such as monitoring potential CNT discharge into a river or ecotoxicity testing by a testing laboratory. Overall, substantial progress has been made in improving CNT quantification during the past ten years, but additional work is needed for standardization, development of extraction techniques from complex matrices, and multi-method comparisons of standard samples to reveal the comparability of techniques.
Environmental Science and Technology


Petersen, E. , Flores-Cervantes, D. , Bucheli, T. , Elliott, L. , Fagan, J. , Gogos, A. , Hanna, S. , Montoro, A. , Plata, D. , Reipa, V. , Westerhoff, P. , Winchester, M. and Mansfield, E. (2016), Quantification of carbon nanotubes in environmental matrices: Current capabilities, case studies, and future improvements, Environmental Science and Technology, [online], (Accessed April 24, 2024)
Created April 6, 2016, Updated February 19, 2017