Interaction between manufactured gold nanoparticles and naturally occurring organic macromolecules

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The increasing exploitation of nanomaterials into many consumer and other products is raising concerns as these nanomaterials are likely to be released into the environment. Due to our lack of knowledge about the environmental chemistry, transport and ecotoxicology of nanomaterials, it is of paramount importance to study how natural aquatic colloids can interact with manufactured gold nanoparticles as these interactions will determine their environmental fate and behaviour. In this context, our work aims to quantify the effect of naturally occurring riverine macromolecules - International Humic Substances Society (IHSS) Suwannee River Humic Acid Standard (SRHA) - on citrate- and acrylate-stabilized gold nanoparticles. The influence of SRHA on the stability of the gold colloids was studied as a function of pH by UV-visible absorption spectroscopy, dynamic light scattering (DLS) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). At high ionic strengths (0.1 M), extensive and rapid aggregation occurred, while more subtle effects were observed at lower ionic strength values. Evidence was found that SRHA enhances particle stability at extreme pH values (ionic strength <0.01 M) by substituting and/or over-coating the original stabilizer on the gold nanoparticle surface, thus affecting surface charge and chemistry. These findings have important implications for the fate and behaviour of nanoparticles in the environment and their ecotoxicity.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-61
Number of pages11
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 25 Aug 2008


  • ecotoxicity, TEM, humic substances, gold nanoparticles, UV-visible absorption spectroscopy