Raman tweezers for tire and road wear micro- and nanoparticles analysis
R. Gillibert, A. Magazzù, A. Callegari, D. Bronte-Ciriza, A. Foti, M. G. Donato, O. M. Maragò, G. Volpe, M. L. de La Chapelle, F. Lagarde and P. G. Gucciardi.
Environmental Science: Nano (2022) doi: 10.1039/D1EN00553G
Tire and road wear particles (TRWP) are non-exhaust particulate matter generated by road transport means during the mechanical abrasion of tires, brakes and roads. TRWP accumulate on the roadsides and are transported into the aquatic ecosystem during stormwater runoffs. Due to their size (sub-millimetric) and rubber content (elastomers), TRWP are considered microplastics (MPs). While the amount of the MPs polluting the water ecosystem with sizes from ∼5 μm to more than 100 μm is known, the fraction of smaller particles is unknown due to the technological gap in the detection and analysis of <5 μm MPs. Here we show that Raman tweezers, a combination of optical tweezers and Raman spectroscopy, can be used to trap and chemically analyze individual TRWPs in a liquid environment, down to the sub-micrometric scale. Using tire particles mechanically grinded from aged car tires in water solutions, we show that it is possible to optically trap individual sub-micron particles, in a so-called 2D trapping configuration, and acquire their Raman spectrum in few tens of seconds. The analysis is then extended to samples collected from a brake test platform, where we highlight the presence of sub-micrometric agglomerates of rubber and brake debris, thanks to the presence of additional spectral features other than carbon. Our results show the potential of Raman tweezers in environmental pollution analysis and highlight the formation of nanosized TRWP during wear.