Receptor-based detection of microplastics and nanoplastics: Current and future

Yisha Tang, Trinity J. Hardy, Jeong Yeol Yoon

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Plastic pollution is an emerging environmental concern, gaining significant attention worldwide. They are classified into microplastics (MP; defined from 1 μm to 5 mm) and smaller nanoplastics (NP; <1 μm). NPs may pose higher ecological risks than MPs. Various microscopic and spectroscopic techniques have been used to detect MPs, and the same methods have occasionally been used for NPs. However, they are not based on receptors, which provide high specificity in most biosensing applications. Receptor-based micro/nanoplastics (MNP) detection can provide high specificity, distinguishing MNPs from the environmental samples and, more importantly, identifying the plastic types. It can also offer a low limit of detection (LOD) required for environmental screening. Such receptors are expected to detect NPs specifically at the molecular level. This review categorizes the receptors into cells, proteins, peptides, fluorescent dyes, polymers, and micro/nanostructures. Detection techniques used with these receptors are also summarized and categorized. There is plenty of room for future research to test for broader classes of environmental samples and many plastic types, to lower the LOD, and to apply the current techniques for NPs. Portable and handheld MNP detection should also be demonstrated for field use since the current demonstrations primarily utilized laboratory instruments. Detection on microfluidic platforms will also be crucial in miniaturizing and automating the assay and, eventually, collecting an extensive database to support machine learning-based classification of MNP types.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number115361
JournalBiosensors and Bioelectronics
StatePublished - Aug 15 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Fluorescence
  • MNP
  • Machine learning
  • Microstructure
  • Nanoparticles
  • Nanostructure
  • SERS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biophysics
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Electrochemistry


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