NanoSight Ltd

The Institute of Water Resources & Water Supply at TU-Hamburg-Harburg implements Nanoparticle Tracking Analysis to characterize colloids in water.

Press Release   •   Jun 26, 2013 15:37 GMT

Inorganic and organic colloids are widespread in aquatic systems, where they influence many water quality treatment processes.  Until recently there was a lack of an adequate analysis technique to measure the size fraction below 1000 nm. The research group of Professor Mathias Ernst of the Institute of Water Resources and Water Supply at the Technical University Hamburg-Harburg has adopted the use of NanoSight’s NTA technique to provide new insights into water quality.

PhD student Martin Schulz began his research at the Berlin Centre of Competence for Water, where he first used NTA to assess different water treatment processes, in particular looking at particle & colloid removal and water purification methods (e.g. coagulation and ozonation). His work focused on membrane filtration where he encountered the problem of membrane-fouling when colloids would block the pores of the membrane. Schulz used NTA to predict the fouling potential of a water sample, thus providing time for the treatment plant to react with different pre-treatment options.

Schulz describes the work of the Institute of Water Resources & Water Supply at TU-Hamburg-Harburg: “The institute provides professional support to water companies and our industry partners for the optimization of processes, problem solving and innovation. We expect to offer NTA as a support tool to regional water companies who have problems with particles & colloids in their treatment processes and water distribution systems.”

Other techniques have been applied to this application with mixed success. These include LC-OCD (liquid chromatography-organic carbon detection) and flow cytometry (using fluorescence markers). NTA has proved to be the ideal complement as it is only by combining all of these techniques that full characterization of a water sample over a broad size range can be established.

Speaking of the reasons why he feels NTA is ideal for this work, Schulz says “NTA is perfect for the concentration range of water and wastewater samples. It provides reliable size detection in polydisperse samples which occur in almost all natural water samples. The fast and precise detection of the smallest colloid fraction (< 200 nm) is a huge advantage. It also has potential for making on-line measurements. In simple words, we use NTA as an additional water quality parameter.”

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NanoSight delivers the world’s most versatile and proven multi-parameter nanoparticle analysis in a single instrument.

NanoSight’s “Nanoparticle Tracking Analysis” (NTA) detects and visualizes populations of nanoparticles in liquids down to 10 nm, dependent on material, and measures the size of each particle from direct observations of diffusion. Additionally, NanoSight measures concentration and a fluorescence mode differentiates suitably-labelled particles within complex background suspensions. Zeta potential measurements are similarly particle-specific.  It is this particle-by-particle methodology that takes NTA beyond traditional light scattering and other ensemble techniques in providing high-resolution particle size distributions and validates data with information-rich video files of the particles moving under Brownian motion.

This simultaneous multiparameter characterization matches the demands of complex biological systems, hence its wide application in development of drug delivery systems, of viral vaccines, and in nanotoxicology. This real-time data gives insight into the kinetics of protein aggregation and other time-dependent phenomena in a qualitative and quantitative manner. NanoSight has a growing role in biodiagnostics, being proven in detection and speciation of nanovesicles (exosomes) and microvesicles.

NanoSight has installed more than 500 systems worldwide with users including BASF, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Novartis, Pfizer, Proctor and Gamble, Roche and Unilever together with the most eminent universities and research institutes.  NanoSight’s technology is validated by 600+ third party papers citing NanoSight results. NanoSight’s leadership position in nanoparticle characterization is consolidated further with publication of an ASTM International standard, ASTM E2834, which describes the NTA methodology for detection and analysis of nanoparticles. For more information, visit