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In Situ Observations of Nanoparticle Early Development Kinetics at Mineral−Water Interfaces

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journal contribution
posted on 16.12.2015, 17:47 by Young-Shin Jun, Byeongdu Lee, Glenn A. Waychunas
The early development of nanoparticles at mineral−water interfaces exerts crucial influences on the sequestration and transport of aqueous toxic species originating from both natural and anthropogenic sources. Homogeneous and heterogeneous nucleation often occur simultaneously, making it difficult to sort out whether toxic species are transported as free species, sorbed on nanoparticle surfaces, or trapped between aggregated nanoparticles. Here, using a newly developed X-ray scattering setup, we show how homogeneous nucleation and growth can be quantitatively separated from heterogeneous processes under aqueous conditions in real-time. Under conditions found in acid-mine-drainage (at pH 3.6 and [Fe3+] = 10−4 M), heterogeneous nucleation of iron oxide nanoparticles on quartz dominated homogeneous nucleation by a factor of 192 (by particle volume). The smallest heterogeneously formed nanoparticles had radii of 1.7 ± 0.5 nm, significantly smaller than the size estimated using classical nucleation theory (CNT). Based on the data, the dominant nucleation and growth mechanisms of iron oxide nanoparticles depending on ionic strength were presented. Our findings have implications for the formation and transport of nanoparticles, and thus toxins, in both environmental and biological systems.