Effects of Humic and Fulvic Acids on Silver Nanoparticle Stability, Dissolution, and Toxicity

Ian L. Gunsolus, Maral P S Mousavi, Kadir Hussein, Philippe Bühlmann, Christy L. Haynes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

182 Scopus citations


The colloidal stability of silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) in natural aquatic environments influences their transport and environmental persistence, while their dissolution to Ag+ influences their toxicity to organisms. Here, we characterize the colloidal stability, dissolution behavior, and toxicity of two industrially relevant classes of AgNPs (i.e., AgNPs stabilized by citrate or polyvinylpyrrolidone) after exposure to natural organic matter (NOM, i.e., Suwannee River Humic and Fulvic Acid Standards and Pony Lake Fulvic Acid Reference). We show that NOM interaction with the nanoparticle surface depends on (i) the NOM's chemical composition, where sulfur- and nitrogen-rich NOM more significantly increases colloidal stability, and (ii) the affinity of the capping agent for the AgNP surface, where nanoparticles with loosely bound capping agents are more effectively stabilized by NOM. Adsorption of NOM is shown to have little effect on AgNP dissolution under most experimental conditions, the exception being when the NOM is rich in sulfur and nitrogen. Similarly, the toxicity of AgNPs to a bacterial model (Shewanella oneidensis MR-1) decreases most significantly in the presence of sulfur- and nitrogen-rich NOM. Our data suggest that the rate of AgNP aggregation and dissolution in aquatic environments containing NOM will depend on the chemical composition of the NOM, and that the toxicity of AgNPs to aquatic microorganisms is controlled primarily by the extent of nanoparticle dissolution. (Figure Presented).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8078-8086
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 7 2015

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© 2015 American Chemical Society.


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