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Chemosphere. 2011 Apr;83(4):545-51. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2010.12.020. Epub 2011 Jan 8.

Potential environmental influence of amino acids on the behavior of ZnO nanoparticles.

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Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3PJ, UK.


The fate of nanomaterials when they enter the environment is an issue of increasing concern and thus it is important to know how they interact with natural organic molecules since this may have a significant impact on the particles' behavior. Because of our poor knowledge in this regard, the interaction of ZnO nanoparticles with amino acids of contrasting surface charge, including Histidine (HIS), Glycine (GLY), Aspartic acid (ASP) and Glutamic acid (GLU) which occur commonly in natural habitats, such as the plant root zone, was investigated over a range of pH conditions and concentrations. The addition of the individual amino acid led to significant changes in nanoparticle colloidal zeta potential stability, particle size distribution and the extent of agglomeration. Variations in pH resulted in considerable changes in nanoparticle surface charge and hydrodynamic size. In general, the particle size distribution decreased as the amino acid concentration increased, with more acidic conditions exacerbating this effect. In addition, increased concentrations of amino acids resulted in more stable nanoparticles in aqueous suspensions. Histidine had the greatest effect on colloidal stability, followed by Glycine, Aspartic acid and finally Glutamic acid. This study illustrates how nanoparticle behavior may change in the presence of naturally occurring amino acids, an important consideration when assessing the fate of nanoparticles in the environment. Additionally, utilization of amino acids in industrial processes could reduce particle agglomeration and it could lead to a way of employing more sustainable reagents.

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