Flory J, Kanel SR, Racz L, Impellitteri CA, Rendahandi GS, Goltz MN. 2013. Influence of pH on the transport of silver nanoparticles in saturated porous media: laboratory experiments and modeling. J Nanopart Res 15(3):2–11.
Given the ubiquity of silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) and their potential for toxic effects on both humans and the environment, it is important to understand their environmental fate and transport. The purpose of this study is to gain information on the transport properties of commercial AgNP suspensions in a glass bead-packed column under saturated flow conditions at different solution pH levels. Commercial AgNPs were characterized using high-resolution transmission electron microscopy, dynamic light scattering, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, ultraviolet visible spectroscopy, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, thermogravimetric analysis, and X-ray diffraction. Transport data were collected at different pH levels (4, 6.5, 9, and 11) at fixed ionic strength. Capture of AgNPs increased as the pH of the solution increased from 4 to 6.5. Further increase in pH to 9 and 11 decreased the attachment of AgNPs to the glass beads. AgNP concentration versus time breakthrough data were simulated using an advection–dispersion model incorporating both irreversible and reversible attachment. In particular, a reversible attachment model is required to simulate breakthrough curve tailing at near neutral pH, when attachment is most significant. The laboratory and modeling study reveals that for natural groundwaters, AgNP transport in porous media may be retarded due to capture; but ultimately, most of the mass may be slowly released over time.