Detecting and Number Counting of Single Engineered Nanoparticles by Digital Particle Polymerase Chain Reaction
The concentrations of nanoparticles present in colloidal dispersions are usually measured and given in mass concentration (e.g. mg/mL), and number concentrations can only be obtained by making assumptions about nanoparticle size and morphology. Additionally traditional nanoparticle concentration measures are not very sensitive, and only the presence/absence of millions/billions of particles occurring together can be obtained. Here, we describe a method, which not only intrinsically results in number concentrations, but is also sensitive enough to count individual nanoparticles, one by one. To make this possible, the sensitivity of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was combined with a binary (=0/1, yes/no) measurement arrangement, binomial statistics and DNA comprising monodisperse silica nanoparticles. With this method, individual tagged particles in the range of 60-250 nm could be detected and counted in drinking water in absolute number, utilizing a standard qPCR device within 1.5 h of measurement time. For comparison, the method was validated with single particle inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (sp-ICPMS).