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Mar Pollut Bull. 2009;59(4-7):213-8. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2009.04.018. Epub 2009 May 22.

The feasibility of isolation and detection of fullerenes and carbon nanotubes using the benzene polycarboxylic acid method.

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  • 1Department of Earth System Science, University of California Irvine, Croul Hall, Irvine, CA 92697, USA.


The incorporation of fullerenes and carbon nanotubes into electronic, optical and consumer products will inevitably lead to the presence of these anthropogenic compounds in the environment. To date, there have been few studies isolating these materials from environmental matrices. Here we report a method commonly used to quantify black carbon (BC) in soils, the benzene polycarboxylic acid (BPCA) method, for measurement of two types of single walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs), two types of fullerenes and two forms of soot. The distribution of BC products (BPCAs) from the high pressure and high temperature oxidation illustrates the condensed nature of these compounds because they form predominantly fully substituted mellitic acid (B6CA). The conversion of carbon nanoparticles to BPCAs was highest for fullerenes (average of 23.2+/-4.0% C recovered for both C(60) and C(70)) and lowest for non-functionalized SWCNTs (0.5+/-0.1% C). The recovery of SWCNTs was 10 times higher when processed through a cation-exchange column, indicating the presence of metals in SWCNTs compromises the oxidation chemistry. While mixtures of SWCNTs, soot and sediment revealed small losses of black carbon during sample processing, the method is suitable for quantifying total BC. The BPCA distribution of mixtures did not agree with theoretical mixtures using model polyaromatic hydrocarbons, suggesting the presence of a matrix effect. Future work is required to quantify different types of black carbon within the same sample.

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