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Nanotoxicology. 2008 Mar;2(1):33-42.

Does Nanoparticle Activity Depend upon Size and Crystal Phase?

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  • 1Aerosol and Air Quality Research Laboratory, Department of Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, USA.


A method to investigate the dependence of the physicochemical properties of nanoparticles (e.g. size, surface area and crystal phase) on their oxidant generating capacity is proposed and demonstrated for TiO(2) nanoparticles. Gas phase synthesis methods that allow for strict control of size and crystal phase were used to prepare TiO(2) nanoparticles. The reactive oxygen species (ROS) generating capacity of these particles was then measured. The size dependent ROS activity was established using TiO(2) nanoparticles of 9 different sizes (4 - 195 nm) but the same crystal phase. For a fixed total surface area, an S-shaped curve for ROS generation per unit surface area was observed as a function of particle size. The highest ROS activity per unit area was observed for 30 nm particles, and observed to be constant above 30 nm. There was a decrease in activity per unit area as size decreased from 30 nm to 10 nm; and again constant for particles smaller than 10 nm. The correlation between crystal phase and oxidant capacity was established using TiO(2) nanoparticles of 11 different crystal phase combinations but similar size. The ability of different crystal phases of TiO(2) nanoparticles to generate ROS was highest for amorphous, followed by anatase, and then anatase/rutile mixtures, and lowest for rutile samples. Based on evaluation of the entire dataset, important dose metrics for ROS generation are established. Their implications of these ROS studies on biological and toxicological studies using nanomaterials are discussed.

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