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Environ Sci Technol. 2010 Feb 15;44(4):1260-6. doi: 10.1021/es902240k.

Impact of environmental conditions (pH, ionic strength, and electrolyte type) on the surface charge and aggregation of silver nanoparticles suspensions.

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Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH, USA.


The impact of capping agents and environmental conditions (pH, ionic strength, and background electrolytes) on surface charge and aggregation potential of silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) suspensions were investigated. Capping agents are chemicals used in the synthesis of nanoparticles to prevent aggregation. The AgNPs examined in the study were as follows: (a) uncoated AgNPs (H(2)-AgNPs), (b) electrostatically stabilized (citrate and NaBH(4)-AgNPs), (c) sterically stabilized (polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP)-AgNPs), and (d) electrosterically stabilized (branched polyethyleneimine (BPEI)-AgNPs)). The uncoated (H(2)-AgNPs), the citrate, and NaBH(4)-coated AgNPs aggregated at higher ionic strengths (100 mM NaNO(3)) and/or acidic pH (3.0). For these three nanomaterials, chloride (Cl(-), 10 mM), as a background electrolyte, resulted in a minimal change in the hydrodynamic diameter even at low pH (3.0). This was limited by the presence of residual silver ions, which resulted in the formation of stable negatively charged AgCl colloids. Furthermore, the presence of Ca(2+) (10 mM) resulted in aggregation of the three previously identified AgNPs regardless of the pH. As for PVP coated AgNPs, the ionic strength, pH and electrolyte type had no impact on the aggregation of the sterically stabilized AgNPs. The surface charge and aggregation of the BPEI coated AgNPs varied according to the solution pH.

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