Microplastic Analysis via Infrared Spectroscopy

What are Microplastics and are They Harmful?

Microplastics are classified as minute pieces of plastic that measure less than five millimeters across. Plastics that measure under 100 nm are regarded as nanoplastics.1

Microplastics can be produced when plastic has been disposed of improperly and deteriorates into fine pieces. Another example are the microbeads found in personal care and cosmetic products.

Microplastics particles (MPPs), which typically degrade slowly, have been found in soil, the ocean, our drinking water, and other waterways and now pose a serious ecological and health risk.

Microplastic Analysis via Infrared Spectroscopy

Image Credit: Daylight Solutions Inc.

While the evidence shows that humans and other species can ingest microplastic particles, the full effects of microplastics are still unknown.2 Ever-increasing plastic pollution increases the urgency to understand what possible risks microplastics have on living organisms.

QCL Infrared Spectroscopy Technology Advances Microplastic Research

Microplastic and nanoplastic analysis is a field that is expanding rapidly aims to understand the effects of tiny plastic particles on the ecosystem and help solve the plastic pollution problem across the world.

Detecting and analyzing microplastics (MPPs) in the ecosystem is a key part of this initiative. Infrared (IR) spectroscopy is a powerful technique for the sensitive detection, identification, and imaging of MPPs.

Infrared (IR) spectroscopy is a preferred technique due to its ability to detect, identify, and image MPPs. IR spectroscopy works by first measuring how MPPs absorb IR light, and then leverages the unique IR 'spectral fingerprint' signatures of different MPPs to identify and quantify them. Using high-brightness Quantum Cascade Lasers (QCLs) in IR spectroscopy broadens the technique and significantly enhances detection sensitivity and time-to-results. QCL-IR spectroscopy offers many advantages to microplastics research, which generally benefits from high-speed analysis of a large volume of MPP samples.

DRS Daylight Solutions manufactures and designs state-of-the-art QCL-IR-based sources and instrumentation optimized for MPP research.

The Spero® QCL-IR microscope, for example, utilizes the high brightness of its QCL-IR light engine to allow users to obtain wide-field (up to 2 mm x 2 mm FOV) IR images at video-rates. Spero can also acquire full IR hyperspectral data cubes in tens of seconds.

A paper recently published by Alfred Wegener Institute (Helgoland, Germany) establishes how this performance is providing advanced, powerful analytical capabilities for MPP analysis.Contact DRS Daylight Solutions’ knowledgeable team of expert application scientists to discover how real-time chemical imaging capabilities can advance? your research.


  1. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – What are microplastics?
  2. PHYS ORG – How dangerous is microplastic?
  3. Rapid Identification and Quantification of Microplastics in the Environment by Quantum Cascade Laser-Based Hyperspectral Infrared Chemical Imaging


This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Daylight Solutions Inc.

For more information on this source, please visit Daylight Solutions Inc.


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