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Determination of particulate black carbon (PBC) in the environment is of great importance but faces a new challenge due to the increasing occurrence of coexisting microplastics (MPs), which are an emerging contaminant with properties very similar to those of PBC and cannot be discriminated in the chemical digestion procedure of the reported PBC analysis method. Herein, a comprehensive method has been developed for accurately determining PBC by digestive elimination of the coexisting MPs and other non-black carbon organic matter. Water samples were filtered with a glass fiber membrane (0.3 μm pore size), and the collected substances with the membrane were subjected to sulfonation with chlorosulfonic acid and Fenton digestion in sequence and then to the total organic carbon analyzer for quantification of PBC. Under the optimized conditions, MPs of various sizes and polymer types were efficiently eliminated (>91.0%), whereas various PBC samples were undigested with recoveries over 91.7% except for the relatively low recovery of 65.6% for the PBC prepared at a low pyrolysis temperature of 400 °C. The feasibility of the proposed method was verified by analysis of real water samples with a spike recovery of 88.6-100.2%. We anticipate that this work will pave an avenue for reliable determination of PBC in the presence of MPs.


Yujian Lai, Xueying Sheng, Lijie Dong, Peng Li, Qingcun Li, Sujuan Yu, Qingxiang Zhou, Jingfu Liu. Digestive Elimination of Coexisting Microplastics for Determination of Particulate Black Carbon in Environmental Waters. Analytical chemistry. 2021 Aug 17;93(32):11184-11190

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PMID: 34347439

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