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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 10(4)

Aggregation kinetics and surface charge of CuO nanoparticles: the influence of pH, ionic strength and humic acids

Vânia Serrão Sousa A and Margarida Ribau Teixeira A B

A Center for Environmental and Sustainability Research (CENSE), University of Algarve, Faculty of Sciences and Technology, Building 7, Campus de Gambelas, PT-8005-139 Faro, Portugal.
B Corresponding author. Email: mribau@ualg.pt

Environmental Chemistry 10(4) 313-322 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/EN13001
Submitted: 2 January 2013  Accepted: 18 May 2013   Published: 5 August 2013

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Environmental context. The high demand and use of nanomaterials in commercial products have led to increased concerns about their effect on the environment and human health. Because CuO nanoparticles are widely used in several products, it is necessary to understand and predict their behaviour and fate in the environment. We report a study on the aggregation and surface charge of CuO nanoparticles under environmentally relevant conditions to better predict the mobility and bioavailability of these materials in natural waters.

Abstract. In this study, the role of pH, ionic strength and humic acids (HAs) on the aggregation kinetics and surface charge of commercial copper oxide (CuO) nanoparticles were examined. Results show that the aggregation of CuO nanoparticles is favoured near pH 10, which was determined as the isoelectric point where the hydrodynamic diameter of the aggregates is the greatest. The aggregation of CuO nanoparticles is also ionic strength dependent. The increase in the ionic strength reduces the zeta potential, which leads to an increase in aggregation until 0.15 M. After this point an increase in ionic strength has no influence on aggregation. In the presence of HA for concentrations below 4 mg C L–1, aggregation was enhanced for acidic to neutral pH, whereas for higher concentrations, at all pH tested, aggregation does not change. The influence of HA on CuO nanoparticles is due to steric and electrostatic interactions. The sedimentation rates of CuO nanoparticles showed a relation between particle diameter and zeta potentials values confirmed by Derjaguin–Landau–Verwey–Overbeek calculations. The results obtained have important implications for predicting the stability and fate of CuO nanoparticles in natural water.

Additional keywords: copper oxide, DLVO theory, hydrodynamic diameter, sedimentation rate, zeta potential.


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