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Environ Sci Technol. 2006 Aug 15;40(16):5045-51.

A non-perturbing scheme for the mineralogical characterization and quantification of inorganic colloids in natural waters.

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Department of Inorganic, Analytical and Applied Chemistry, University of Geneva, Switzerland.


Although the role played by inorganic colloids in natural waters depends on their composition as well as on their size, the characterization of submicron particles has rarely gone beyond describing the morphology and identifying some of the most abundant particles. The process of quantification has been hampered by a lack of suitable analytical methods. This study demonstrates that it is possible to identify and quantify inorganic particles in the colloidal size range by applying a straightforward methodology based on a well-proved, quantitative, and nonperturbing method of sample preparation (direct centrifugation of the samples on transmission electron microscopy grids) in conjunction with particle analysis using widely available techniques: transmission electron microscopy, energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS), and selected area electron diffraction (SAED). The method has successfully been applied to six water samples from basins of contrasting geological characteristics. The method has the advantage of minimizing sample modifications by allowing on site sample preparation, using standard equipment, and it is not particularly time-consuming. Notably, the combination of EDS and SAED information makes it possible to characterize and quantify the most abundant components of the colloidal pool in the majority of the aquatic systems: the different types of aluminosilicates.

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