Particle size distributions of silver nanoparticles at environmentally relevant conditions

Susan Cumberland, Jamie Lead

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

236 Citations (Scopus)


Silver nanoparticles (Ag NPs) are becoming increasingly popular as antimicrobial agents in consumer goods with consequent risk to environmental health from discharges. Environmentally relevant fate and transport investigations are limited but essential to gain understanding towards bioavailability and toxicology. In this study, monodisperse 15 nm citrate-stabilised Ag NPs were synthesised, characterised and then fractionated by flow field-flow fractionation (FIFFF) at environmentally relevant conditions (pH 5 or 8, presence of natural organic macromolecules (NOM) and presence of sodium or calcium). At low ionic strength, Ag NPs particle size increased as pH increased from 5 to 8. However, changing the ionic strength from 10(-3) to 10(-2) M Na increased instability of the Ag NPs, and loss of peak at pH 5 but in the presence of humic substance (HS), a reduction in NP size was seen, most likely due to a reduction in the diffuse layer. The presence of Ca2+ ions, at the higher ionic strengths caused complete loss of the solution Ag NPs with or without HS, most likely due to aggregation. At the lower Ca2+ ionic strength the Ag NPs were still unstable, but again, in the presence of HS the NPs were largely dispersed. The presence of HS improved stability of Ag NPs under these conditions by forming a Surface coating resulting in both steric and charge stabilisation. This work implies that Ag NPs could have long residence times in aquatic systems in the presence of HS potentially resulting in increased bioavailability. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9099-9105
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Chromatography A
Issue number52
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2009


  • FFF
  • Humic substances
  • Natural organic matter (NOM)
  • Silver nanoparticles
  • Flow field-flow fractionation


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