This article reviews the general characterization of nano-objects, especially engineered nanoparticles (ENPs) and discusses analytical techniques commonly used for their determination. The main aspect of this review covers the use of the inductively coupled plasma (ICP) technique for the determination of ENPs itself or when applied in a large variety of products including possible release during use. Beside various applications by direct determination or analysis after suitable digestion also novel approaches e.g. single particle introduction, and hyphenated techniques such as field flow fractionation (FFF) or size exclusion coupled to plasma spectrometry are discussed in detail. Finally, an overview of the state-of-the-art possibilities for quality control related to the atomic spectrometric analysis of nanoparticles is given. © 2011 The Royal Society of Chemistry.