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J Contam Hydrol. 2012 Aug;136-137:86-95. doi: 10.1016/j.jconhyd.2012.05.004. Epub 2012 May 28.

Impacts of bridging complexation on the transport of surface-modified nanoparticles in saturated sand.

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Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Land and Water, Private Bag 2, Glen Osmond, SA 5064, Australia.


The transport of polyacrylic acid capped cadmium telluride (CdTe) quantum dots (QDs), carboxylate-modified latex (CML), and bare silica nanoparticles (NPs) was studied in packed columns at various electrolyte concentrations and cation types. The breakthrough curves (BTCs) of QDs and CML particles in acid-treated Accusand showed significant amounts of increasing deposition with 0.5, 1, and 2 mM Ca(2+), but only minute deposition at 50 and 100 mM Na(+). Negligible QD and CML deposition occurred at 2mM Ca(2+) in columns packed with ultrapure quartz sand that was similar in size to the Accusand. These observations are not consistent with interpretations based on Derjaguin-Landau-Verwey-Overbeek (DLVO) calculations of interaction energies. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and energy-dispersive X-ray (EDX) analysis demonstrated that there were regions on the acid-treated Accusand covered with small amounts of clay that were absent on the ultrapure quartz sand. A salt cleaning method was therefore used to remove the clay from the acid-treated Accusand. The BTCs of QDs and CML in this acid+salt treated Accusand exhibited much less deposition at any given Ca(2+) concentration compared to those obtained from the acid-treated sand. SEM images showed that most of the QD deposited in acid-treated Accusand occurred on clay surfaces. Unlike our results with QDs and CML, negligible deposition of bare silica NPs occurred at 5 and 10 mM Ca(2+) in acid-treated Accusand. The high deposition of QDs and CML particles was therefore attributed to bridging complexation in which Ca(2+) serves as a bridge between the cation exchange locations on the clay and carboxyl functional groups on the QD and CML particles, which were absent on the bare silica NPs. Our results suggest that the transport of carboxylic ligand-modified NPs may be limited in subsurface environments because of the ubiquitous presence of clay and divalent cations.

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