Document Type



Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


1.3 PHYSICAL SCIENCES, Condensed matter physics, Particles and fields physics, Fluids and plasma physics

Publication Details

Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety 207 (2021) 111153


Micro/nano-plastics (MNPs) have been found within many environments and organisms including humans, making them a significant and growing concern. Initial research into the potential detrimental effects these MNPs both from acute and chronic exposure has been ongoing but still requires substantially more data to clarify. This research presents the response of nano-polystyrene (NPS) on Raphidocelis subcapitata, a freshwater alga, under an existing acute toxicity test along with additional analytical techniques to try identifying possible sources of toxicity. R. subcapitata cells were exposed for 72 h to a concentration range of 0–100 mg/l NPS. Growth Inhibition (GI) testing showed the R. subcapitata demonstrated statistically distinct reductions in growth over 72 h at all NPS exposure concentrations while not suffering culture collapse. By the 100 mg/l NPS exposure the R. subcapitata has suffered almost a 33.7% reduction in cell concentration after 72 h compared to control samples. Confocal imaging showed the NPS wasn't permeating into the algal plasma membrane or individual organelles but agglomerated onto the algal cell wall. The agglomeration was irregular but increased in total surface area covered as NPS concentration increases. UV–Vis fluorimetry testing produced a linear response of emission intensities to algae exposed to the 0–100 mg/l range of NPS. However, comparisons of emission intensity values of algae exposed to NPS to emission intensities of pure NPS at identical concentrations showed consistent intensity reduction. This response further indicated NPS agglomerating within the media and onto the alga cells seen from confocal imaging. Finally, Raman spectroscopy on R. subcapitata attempted to distinguish the key 1001 cm−1 peak or other crucial identifier peaks of polystyrene from overall Raman spectra. This was not successful as emissions from algal component (e.g. phenylaniline) completely suppressed the signal region.