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Electron Microscopy Sciences

Technical Data Sheets

Fluorescence Search for Microplastics

EMS Catalog #SFA Nightsea

NIGHTSEA SFA in the Dustan Lab
NIGHTSEA SFA in the Dustan Lab © Phil Dustan.

GFP-labeled dorsal striatum
Eagle poop fluorescence © Phil Dustan

Microplastics, plastics fibers or particles on the order of millimeters or less in size, have become ubiquitous in the world around us, and especially in the marine environment. Some of the microplastics are primary, purposely manufactured to be small to perform specific functions such as in facial cleansers and cosmetics, while others are secondary, produced by deterioration of larger pieces. A Google search on 'microplastics in the environment' will point you to many good references.

A team at the College of Charleston is using the NIGHTSEA Stereo Microscope Fluorescence Adapter in their investigation of microplastics in the environment. Dr. Phil Dustan and students Ariel Christensen and Damien Beri have been examining a wide variety of subjects, both marine and terrestrial. Many of the particles fluoresce and show up clearly in samples. They even found a load of microplastic particles in a sample of eagle poop!

This video shows how the group is collecting samples and examining them for microplastics.

Besides entering the food web, microplastics can be incorporated into manufactured products. We looked at a paper towel and toilet paper under our microscope here at NIGHTSEA and were surprised by the number of glowing spots and fibers.

Section of printed circuit board, white light    Section of printed circuit board, fluorescence
Paper towel, white light    Paper towel, fluorescence
Section of printed circuit board, white light    Section of printed circuit board, fluorescence
Toilet paper, white light    Toilet paper, fluorescence

The Dustan lab is using the Royal Blue excitation/emission set, and that is also what is shown for the paper towel and toilet paper samples. You can see different things and different colors when using other wavelength combinations, but the Royal Blue set seems to be a good general purpose combination.

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