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Silica Nanoparticle Phytotoxicity to Arabidopsis thaliana

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journal contribution
posted on 18.09.2012, 00:00 by Danielle L. Slomberg, Mark H. Schoenfisch
The phytotoxicity of silica nanoparticles (SiNPs) was evaluated as a function of particle size (14, 50, and 200 nm), concentration (250 and 1000 mg L–1), and surface composition toward Arabidopsis thaliana plants grown hydroponically for 3 and 6 weeks. Reduced development and chlorosis were observed for plants exposed to highly negative SiNPs (−20.3 and −31.9 mV for the 50 and 200 nm SiNPs, respectively) regardless of particle concentration when not controlling pH of the hydroponic medium, which resulted in increased alkalinity (∼pH 8). Particles were no longer toxic to the plants at either concentration upon calcination or removal of surface silanols from the SiNP surface, or adjusting the pH of the growth medium to pH 5.8. The phytotoxic effects observed for the negatively charged 50 and 200 nm SiNPs were attributed to pH effects and the adsorption of macro- and micro-nutrients to the silica surface. Size-dependent uptake of the nanoparticles by the plants was confirmed using transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and inductively coupled plasma-optical emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES) with plant roots containing 32.0, 1.85, and 7.00 × 10–3 mg Si·kg tissue–1/nm3 (normalized for SiNP volume) for the 14, 50, and 200 nm SiNPs respectively, after 6 weeks exposure at 1000 ppm (pH 5.8). This study demonstrates that the silica scaffolds are not phytotoxic up to 1000 ppm despite significant uptake of the SiNPs (14, 50, and 200 nm) into the root system of A. thaliana.