Water research

Sensitivity of the transport and retention of stabilized silver nanoparticles to physicochemical factors.

PMID 23490100


Saturated sand-packed column experiments were conducted to investigate the influence of physicochemical factors on the transport and retention of surfactant stabilized silver nanoparticles (AgNPs). The normalized concentration in breakthrough curves (BTCs) of AgNPs increased with a decrease in solution ionic strength (IS), and an increase in water velocity, sand grain size, and input concentration (Co). In contrast to conventional filtration theory, retention profiles (RPs) for AgNPs exhibited uniform, nonmonotonic, or hyperexponential shapes that were sensitive to physicochemical conditions. The experimental BTCs and RPs with uniform or hyperexponential shape were well described using a numerical model that considers time- and depth-dependent retention. The simulated maximum retained concentration on the solid phase (Smax) and the retention rate coefficient (k1) increased with IS and as the grain size and/or Co decreased. The RPs were more hyperexponential in finer textured sand and at lower Co because of their higher values of Smax. Conversely, RPs were nonmonotonic or uniform at higher Co and in coarser sand that had lower values of Smax, and tended to exhibit higher peak concentrations in the RPs at lower velocities and at higher solution IS. These observations indicate that uniform and nonmonotonic RPs occurred under conditions when Smax was approaching filled conditions. Nonmonotonic RPs had peak concentrations at greater distances in the presence of excess amounts of surfactant, suggesting that competition between AgNPs and surfactant diminished Smax close to the column inlet. The sensitivity of the nonmonotonic RPs to IS and velocity in coarser textured sand indicates that AgNPs were partially interacting in a secondary minimum. However, elimination of the secondary minimum only produced recovery of a small portion (<10%) of the retained AgNPs. These results imply that AgNPs were largely irreversibly interacting in a primary minimum associated with microscopic heterogeneity.