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Environ Sci Technol. 2013 Oct 15;47(20):11528-36. doi: 10.1021/es402075f. Epub 2013 Oct 1.

Release of quantum dot nanoparticles in porous media: role of cation exchange and aging time.

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CSIRO, Land and Water , Glen Osmond, SA 5064, Australia.


Understanding the fate and transport of engineered nanoparticles (ENPs) in subsurface environments is required for developing the best strategy for waste management and disposal of these materials. In this study, the deposition and release of quantum dot (QD) nanoparticles were studied in saturated sand columns. The QDs were first deposited in columns using 100 mM NaCl or 2 mM CaC12 solutions. Deposited QDs were then contacted with deionized (DI) water and/or varying Na(+) concentrations to induce release. QDs deposited in 100 mM Na(+) were easily reversible when the column was rinsed with DI water. Conversely, QDs deposited in the presence of Ca(2+) exhibited resistance to release with DI water. However, significant release occurred when the columns were flushed with NaCl solutions. This release behavior was explained by cation exchange (Ca(2+) in exchange sites were replaced by Na(+)) which resulted in the breakdown of calcium bridging. We also studied the effect of aging time on the QD release. As the aging time increased, smaller amounts of QDs were released following cation exchange. However, deposited QDs were subsequently released when the column was flushed with DI water. The release behavior was modeled using a single first-order kinetic release process and changes in the maximum solid phase concentration of deposited QDs with transition in solution chemistry. The results of this study demonstrate that the presence of carboxyl groups on ENPs and divalent ions in the solution plays a key role in controlling ENP mobility in the subsurface environment.

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