Determining the fate of manufactured nanomaterials in the environment is contingent upon understanding how stabilizing agents influence the stability of nanoparticles in aqueous systems. In this study, the aggregation and dissolution tendencies of uncoated silver nanoparticles and the same particles coated with three common coating agents, trisodium citrate, sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS), and Tween 80 (Tween), were evaluated. Early stage aggregation kinetics of the uncoated and coated silver nanoparticles were assessed by dynamic light scattering over a range of electrolyte types (NaCl, NaNO(3), and CaCl(2)) and concentrations that span those observed in natural waters. Although particle dissolution was observed, aggregation of all particle types was still consistent with classical Derjaguin-Landau-Verwey-Overbeek (DLVO) theory. The aggregation of citrate-coated particles and SDS-coated particles were very similar to that for the uncoated particles, as the critical coagulation concentrations (CCC) of the particles in different electrolytes were all approximately the same (40 mM NaCl, 30 mM NaNO(3), and 2 mM CaCl(2)). The Tween-stabilized particles were significantly more stable than the other particles, however, and in NaNO(3) aggregation was not observed up to an electrolyte concentration of 1 M. Differences in the rate of aggregation under diffusion-limited aggregation conditions at high electrolyte concentrations for the SDS and Tween-coated particles, in combination with the moderation of their electrophoretic mobilities, suggest SDS and Tween imparted steric interactions to the particles. The dissolution of the silver nanoparticles was inhibited by the SDS and Tween coatings, but not by the citrate coating, and in chloride-containing electrolytes a secondary precipitate of AgCl was observed bridging the individual particles. These results indicate that coating agents could significant influence the fate of silver nanoparticles in aquatic systems, and in some cases these stabilizers may completely prevent particle aggregation.
© 2011 American Chemical Society