Lights, Camera, Reaction! The Influence of Interfacial Chemistry on Nanoparticle Photoreactivity

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Farner Budarz, Jeffrey Michael


Wiesner, Mark R

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The ability of photocatalytic nanoparticles (NPs) to produce reactive oxygen species (ROS) has inspired research into several new applications and technologies, including water purification, contaminant remediation, and self-cleaning surface coatings. As a result, NPs continue to be incorporated into a wide variety of increasingly complex products. With the increased use of NPs and nano-enabled products and their subsequent disposal, NPs will make their way into the environment. Currently, many unanswered questions remain concerning how changes to the NP surface chemistry that occur in natural waters will impact reactivity. This work seeks to investigate potential influences on photoreactivity – specifically the impact of functionalization, the influence of anions, and interactions with biological objects - so that ROS generation in natural aquatic environments may be better understood.

To this aim, titanium dioxide nanoparticles (TiO2) and fullerene nanoparticles (FNPs) were studied in terms of their reactive endpoints: ROS generation measured through the use of fluorescent or spectroscopic probe compounds, virus and bacterial inactivation, and contaminant degradation. Physical characterization of NPs included light scattering, electron microscopy and electrophoretic mobility. These systematic investigations into the effect of functionalization, sorption, and aggregation on NP aggregate structure, size, and reactivity improve our understanding of trends that impact nanoparticle reactivity.

Engineered functionalization of FNPs was shown to impact NP aggregation, ROS generation, and viral affinity. Fullerene cage derivatization can lead to a greater affinity for the aqueous phase, smaller mean aggregate size, and a more open aggregate structure, favoring greater rates of ROS production. At the same time however, fullerene derivatization also decreases the 1O2 quantum yield and may either increase or decrease the affinity for a biological surface. These results suggest that the biological impact of fullerenes will be influenced by changes in the type of surface functionalization and extent of cage derivatization, potentially increasing the ROS generation rate and facilitating closer association with biological targets.

Investigations into anion sorption onto the surface of TiO2 indicate that reactivity will be strongly influenced by the waters they are introduced into. The type and concentration of anion impacted both aggregate state and reactivity to varying degrees. Specific interactions due to inner sphere ligand exchange with phosphate and carbonate have been shown to stabilize NPs. As a result, waters containing chloride or nitrate may have little impact on inherent reactivity but will reduce NP transport via aggregation, while waters containing even low levels of phosphate and carbonate may decrease “acute” reactivity but stabilize NPs such that their lifetime in the water column is increased.

Finally, ROS delivery in a multicomponent system was studied under the paradigm of pesticide degradation. The presence of bacteria or chlorpyrifos in solution significantly decreased bulk ROS measurements, with almost no OH detected when both were present. However, the presence of bacteria had no observable impact on the rate of chlorpyrifos degradation, nor chlorpyrifos on bacterial inactivation. These results imply that investigating reactivity in simplified systems may significantly over or underestimate photocatalytic efficiency in realistic environments, depending on the surface affinity of a given target.

This dissertation demonstrates that the reactivity of a system is largely determined by NP surface chemistry. Altering the NP surface, either intentionally or incidentally, produces significant changes in reactivity and aggregate characteristics. Additionally, the photocatalytic impact of the ROS generated by a NP depends on the characteristics of potential targets as well as on the characteristics of the NP itself. These are complicating factors, and the myriad potential exposure conditions, endpoints, and environmental systems to be considered for even a single NP highlight the need for functional assays that employ environmentally relevant conditions if risk assessments for engineered NPs are to be made in a timely fashion so as not to be outpaced by, or impede, technological advances.





Farner Budarz, Jeffrey Michael (2016). Lights, Camera, Reaction! The Influence of Interfacial Chemistry on Nanoparticle Photoreactivity. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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