Effects of humic substances on precipitation and aggregation of zinc sulfide nanoparticles

Amrika Deonarine, Boris L.T. Lau, George R. Aiken, Joseph N. Ryan, Heileen Hsu-Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


Nanoparticulate metal sulfides such as ZnS can influence the transport and bioavailability of pollutant metals in anaerobic environments. The aim of this work was to investigate how the composition of dissolved natural organic matter (NOM) influences the stability of zinc sulfide nanoparticles as they nucleate and aggregate in water with dissolved NOM. We compared NOM fractions that were isolated from several surface waters and represented a range of characteristics including molecular weight, type of carbon, and ligand density. Dynamic light scattering was employed to monitor the growth and aggregation of Zn-S-NOM nanoparticles in supersaturated solutions containing dissolved aquatic humic substances. The NOM was observed to reduce particle growth rates, depending on solution variables such as type and concentration of NOM, monovalent electrolyte concentration, and pH. The rates of growth increased with increasing ionic strength, indicating that observed growth rates primarily represented aggregation of charged Zn-S-NOM particles. Furthermore, the observed rates decreased with increasing molecular weight and aromatic content of the NOM fractions, while carboxylate and reduced sulfur content had little effect. Differences between NOM were likely due to properties that increased electrosteric hindrances for aggregation. Overall, results of this study suggest that the composition and source of NOM are key factors that contribute to the stabilization and persistence of zinc sulfide nanoparticles in the aquatic environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3217-3223
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 15 2011


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