Environmental science & technology

Rapid chromatographic separation of dissoluble Ag(I) and silver-containing nanoparticles of 1-100 nanometer in antibacterial products and environmental waters.

PMID 25417798


Sensitive and rapid methods for speciation analysis of nanoparticulate Ag (NAg) and Ag(I) in complex matrices are urgently needed for understanding the environmental effects and biological toxicity of silver nanoparticles (AgNPs). Herein we report the development of a universal liquid chromatography (LC) method for rapid and high resolution separation of dissoluble Ag(I) from nanoparticles covering the entire range of 1-100 nm in 5 min. By using a 500 Å poresize amino column, and an aqueous mobile phase containing 0.1% (v/v) FL-70 (a surfactant) and 2 mM Na2S2O3 at a flow rate of 0.7 mL/min, all the nanoparticles of various species such as Ag and Ag2S were eluted in one fraction, while dissoluble Ag(I) was eluted as a baseline separated peak. The dissoluble Ag(I) was quantified by the online coupled ICP-MS with a detection limit of 0.019 μg/L. The NAg was quantified by subtracting the dissoluble Ag(I) from the total Ag content, which was determined by ICP-MS after digestion of the sample without LC separation. While the addition of FL-70 and Na2S2O3 into the mobile phase is essential to elute NAg and Ag(I) from the column, the use of 500 Å poresize column is the key to baseline separation of Ag(I) from ∼ 1 nm AgNPs. The feasibility of the proposed method was demonstrated in speciation analysis of dissoluble Ag(I) and NAg in antibacterial products and environmental waters, with very good chromatographic repeatability (relative standard deviations) in both peak area (<2%) and retention time (<0.6%), excellent spiked recoveries in the range of 84.7-102.7% for Ag(I) and 81.3-106.3% for NAg. Our work offers a novel approach to rapid and baseline separation of dissoluble metal ions from their nanoparticulate counterparts covering the whole range of 1-100 nm.