Quantification of Carbon Nanotubes in Environmental Matrices: Current Capabilities, Case Studies, and Future Prospects

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

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have numerous exciting potential applications and some that have reached 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. 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 among the techniques. Five case studies are provided to illustrate how to use this information to inform responses to 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 multimethod comparisons of standard samples to reveal the comparability of techniques.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4587-4605
Number of pages19
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 3 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Quantification of Carbon Nanotubes in Environmental Matrices: Current Capabilities, Case Studies, and Future Prospects'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this