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J Contam Hydrol. 2010 Nov 25;118(3-4):208-17. doi: 10.1016/j.jconhyd.2010.10.002. Epub 2010 Oct 18.

Transport and deposition of functionalized CdTe nanoparticles in saturated porous media.

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Earth Sciences Division, Lawrence, Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA, USA.


Comprehensive understanding of the transport and deposition of engineered nanoparticles (NPs) in subsurface is required to assess their potential negative impact on the environment. We studied the deposition behavior of functionalized quantum dot (QD) NPs (CdTe) in different types of sands (Accusand, ultrapure quartz, and iron-coated sand) at various solution ionic strengths (IS). The observed transport behavior in ultrapure quartz and iron-coated sand was consistent with conventional colloid deposition theories. However, our results from the Accusand column showed that deposition was minimal at the lowest IS (1mM) and increased significantly as the IS increased. The effluent breakthrough occurred with a delay, followed by a rapid rise to the maximum normalized concentration of unity. Negligible deposition in the column packed with ultrapure quartz sand (100mM) and Accusand (1mM) rules out the effect of straining and suggests the importance of surface charge heterogeneity in QD deposition in Accusand at higher IS. Data analyses further show that only a small fraction of sand surface area contributed in QD deposition even at the highest IS (100mM) tested. The observed delay in breakthrough curves of QDs was attributed to the fast diffusive mass transfer rate of QDs from bulk solution to the sand surface and QD mass transfer on the solid phase. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and energy-dispersive X-ray (EDX) analysis were used to examine the morphology and elemental composition of sand grains. It was observed that there were regions on the sand covered with layers of clay particles. EDX spectra collected from these regions revealed that Si and Al were the major elements suggesting that the clay particles were kaolinite. Additional batch experiments using gold NPs and SEM analysis were performed and it was observed that the gold NPs were only deposited on clay particles originally on the Accusand surface. After removing the clays from the sand surface, we observed negligible QD deposition even at 100mM IS. We proposed that nanoscale charge heterogeneities on clay particles on Accusand surface played a key role in QD deposition. It was shown that the value of solution IS determined the extent to which the local heterogeneities participated in particle deposition.

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