From celebration to contamination: analysing microplastics released by burst balloons

Yunlong Luo, Olalekan Simon Awoyemi, Siyuan Liu, Junfeng Niu, Ravi Naidu, Cheng Fang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Air balloons are a ubiquitous presence in our daily lives, and their rupture may release a substantial quantity of debris, as investigated herein. We employ Raman imaging to capture the fragments resulting from balloon explosions, enabling the identification and direct visualisation of minute microplastic particles / fragments with an improved signal-to-noise ratio for precise quantification. To circumvent the generation of misleading confocal Raman images, we recommend employing terrain mapping to scan the three-dimensional surface of the sample. It is important to acknowledge that the analysis of microplastics at the micro-scale inherently poses limitations in terms of throughput, as it necessitates a trade-off between low and high magnifications. We conduct explosive experiments on ten-to-hundred balloons, collecting debris from various angles and positions. Our investigation involves the random testing of multiple samples / sample positions at the micro-scale, with subsequent extrapolation to estimate the total amount of microplastics. The amalgamation of these results through statistical analysis indicates that each balloon explosion can potentially release tens-to-thousands of microplastics, highlighting a concern that has hitherto received insufficient attention. The characterisation approach, particularly the random Raman scanning method in combination with SEM and the statistical analysis on accumulated samples employed in this report, has the potential to serve as a useful tool in future research on microplastics and even nanoplastics.
Original languageEnglish
Article number133021
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
Early online date17 Nov 2023
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2024
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2023. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Balloon
  • Microplastic
  • Raman imaging
  • Terrain mapping
  • Particle analysis
  • Explosion


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