How reliably can a material be classified as a nanomaterial? Available particle-sizing techniques at work

Frank Babick*, Johannes Mielke, Wendel Wohlleben, Stefan Weigel, Vasile Dan Hodoroaba

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

74 Citations (Scopus)


Abstract: Currently established and projected regulatory frameworks require the classification of materials (whether nano or non-nano) as specified by respective definitions, most of which are based on the size of the constituent particles. This brings up the question if currently available techniques for particle size determination are capable of reliably classifying materials that potentially fall under these definitions. In this study, a wide variety of characterisation techniques, including counting, fractionating, and spectroscopic techniques, has been applied to the same set of materials under harmonised conditions. The selected materials comprised well-defined quality control materials (spherical, monodisperse) as well as industrial materials of complex shapes and considerable polydispersity. As a result, each technique could be evaluated with respect to the determination of the number-weighted median size. Recommendations on the most appropriate and efficient use of techniques for different types of material are given. Graphical Abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish
Article number158
JournalJournal of Nanoparticle Research : an Interdisciplinary Forum for Nanoscale Science and Technology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Characterisation techniques
  • Nanomaterial classification
  • Nanometrology
  • Nanoparticle
  • Number-weighted median size
  • Particle size analysis
  • Tiered approach


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