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ICP-MS-based characterization of inorganic nanoparticles—sample preparation and off-line fractionation strategies

Fabricius, Anne-Lena, Duester, Lars, Meermann, Björn, Ternes, Thomas A.
Analytical and bioanalytical chemistry 2014 v.406 no.2 pp. 467-479
acidification, atomic absorption spectrometry, centrifugation, ceric oxide, dialysis, ecotoxicology, fractionation, gold, microwave treatment, nanoparticles, risk assessment, specific ion electrodes, titanium dioxide, ultrafiltration, zinc oxide
Validated and easily applicable analytical tools are required to develop and implement regulatory frameworks and an appropriate risk assessment for engineered nanoparticles (ENPs). Concerning metal-based ENPs, two main aspects are the quantification of the absolute mass concentration and of the “dissolved” fraction in, e.g., (eco)toxicity and environmental studies. To provide information on preparative aspects and on potential uncertainties, preferably simple off-line methods were compared to determine (1) the total concentration of suspensions of five metal-based ENP materials (Ag, TiO₂, CeO₂, ZnO, and Au; two sizes), and (2) six methods to quantify the “dissolved” fraction of an Ag ENP suspension. Focusing on inductively coupled plasma–mass spectrometry, the total concentration of the ENP suspensions was determined by direct measurement, after acidification and after microwave-assisted digestion. Except for Au 10 nm, the total concentrations determined by direct measurements were clearly lower than those measured after digestion (between 61.1 % for Au 200 nm and 93.7 % for ZnO). In general, acidified suspensions delivered better recoveries from 89.3 % (ZnO) to 99.3 % (Ag). For the quantification of dissolved fractions two filtration methods (ultrafiltration and tangential flow filtration), centrifugation and ion selective electrode were mainly appropriate with certain limitations, while dialysis and cloud point extraction cannot be recommended. With respect to precision, time consumption, applicability, as well as to economic demands, ultrafiltration in combination with microwave digestion was identified as best practice.