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PLoS One. 2013 Nov 25;8(11):e81239. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0081239. eCollection 2013.

Influence of material properties on TiO2 nanoparticle agglomeration.

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Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California, United States of America ; University of California Center of Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, United States of America.


Emerging nanomaterials are being manufactured with varying particle sizes, morphologies, and crystal structures in the pursuit of achieving outstanding functional properties. These variations in these key material properties of nanoparticles may affect their environmental fate and transport. To date, few studies have investigated this important aspect of nanoparticles' environmental behavior. In this study, the aggregation kinetics of ten different TiO2 nanoparticles (5 anatase and 5 rutile each with varying size) was systematically evaluated. Our results show that, as particle size increases, the surface charge of both anatase and rutile TiO2 nanoparticles shifts toward a more negative value, and, accordingly, the point of zero charge shifts toward a lower value. The colloidal stability of anatase sphere samples agreed well with DLVO theoretical predictions, where an increase in particle size led to a higher energy barrier and therefore greater critical coagulation concentration. In contrast, the critical coagulation concentration of rutile rod samples correlated positively with the specific surface area, i.e., samples with higher specific surface area exhibited higher stability. Finally, due to the large innate negative surface charge of all the TiO2 samples at the pH value (pH = 8) tested, the addition of natural organic matter was observed to have minimal effect on TiO2 aggregation kinetics, except for the smallest rutile rods that showed decreased stability in the presence of natural organic matter.

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