Environmental Chemistry Environmental Chemistry Society
Environmental problems - Chemical approaches
RESEARCH ARTICLE (Open Access)

Heteroagglomeration of nanosilver with colloidal SiO2 and clay

Sébastien Maillette A , Caroline Peyrot A , Tapas Purkait B , Muhammad Iqbal B , Jonathan G. C. Veinot B and Kevin J. Wilkinson A C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Biophysical Environmental Chemistry Group, Department of Chemistry, University of Montreal, CP 6128 Succursale Centre-ville, Montreal, QC H3C 3J7, Canada.

B Department of Chemistry, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2G2, Canada.

C Corresponding author. Email: kj.wilkinson@umontreal.ca

Environmental Chemistry 14(1) 1-8 https://doi.org/10.1071/EN16070
Submitted: 25 March 2016  Accepted: 13 July 2016   Published: 15 August 2016

Environmental context. The fate of nanomaterials in the environment is related to their colloidal stability. Although numerous studies have examined their homoagglomeration, their low concentration and the presence of high concentrations of natural particles implies that heteroagglomeration rather than homoagglomeration is likely to occur under natural conditions. In this paper, two state-of-the art analytical techniques were used to identify the conditions under which nanosilver was most likely to form heteroagglomerates in natural waters.

Abstract. The environmental risk of nanomaterials will depend on their persistence, mobility, toxicity and bioaccumulation. Each of these parameters is related to their fate (especially dissolution, agglomeration). The goal of this paper was to understand the heteroagglomeration of silver nanoparticles in natural waters. Two small silver nanoparticles (nAg, ~3 nm; polyacrylic acid- and citrate-stabilised) were covalently labelled with a fluorescent dye and then mixed with colloidal silicon oxides (SiO2, ~18.5 nm) or clays (~550 nm SWy-2 montmorillonite). Homo- and heteroagglomeration of the nAg were first studied in controlled synthetic waters that were representative of natural fresh waters (50 μg Ag L–1; pH 7.0; ionic strength 10–7 to 10–1 M Ca) by following the sizes of the nAg by fluorescence correlation spectroscopy. The polyacrylic acid-coated nanosilver was extremely stable under all conditions, including in the presence of other colloids and at high ionic strengths. However, the citrate-coated nanosilver formed heteroaggregates in presence of both colloidal SiO2 and clay particles. Nanoparticle surface properties appeared to play a key role in controlling the physicochemical stability of the nAg. For example, the polyacrylic acid stabilized nAg-remained extremely stable in the water column, even under conditions for which surrounding colloidal particles were agglomerating. Finally, enhanced dark-field microscopy was then used to further characterise the heteroagglomeration of a citrate-coated nAg with suspensions of colloidal clay, colloidal SiO2 or natural (river) water.

Additional keywords: agglomeration, dark-field microscopy, fluorescence correlation spectroscopy, hyperspectral imaging, silver nanoparticle.


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