American Chemical Society
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In Situ Liquid Cell Observations of Asbestos Fiber Diffusion in Water

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posted on 2015-11-17, 00:00 authored by Lei Wu, Carlos Ortiz, Ye Xu, Jane Willenbring, Douglas Jerolmack
We present real-time observations of the diffusion of individual asbestos fibers in water. We first scaled up a technique for fluorescent tagging and imaging of chrysotile asbestos fibers and prepared samples with a distribution of fiber lengths ranging from 1 to 20 μm. Experiments were then conducted by placing a 20, 100, or 150 ppm solution of these fibers in a liquid cell mounted on a spinning-disk confocal microscope. Using automated elliptical-particle detection methods, we determined the translation and rotation and two-dimensional (2D) trajectories of thousands of diffusing chrysotile fibers. We find that fiber diffusion is size-dependent and in reasonable agreement with theoretical predictions for the Brownian motion of rods. This agreement is remarkable given that experiments involved non-idealized particles at environmentally relevant concentrations in a confined cell, in which particle–particle and particle–wall interactions might be expected to cause deviations from theory. Experiments also confirmed that highly elongated chrysotile fibers exhibit anisotropic diffusion at short time scales, a predicted effect that may have consequences for aggregate formation and transport of asbestos in confined spaces. The examined fibers vary greatly in their lengths and were prepared from natural chrysotile. Our findings thus indicate that the diffusion rates of a wide range of natural colloidal particles can be predicted from theory, so long as the particle aspect ratio is properly taken into account. This is an important first step for understanding aggregate formation and transport of non-spherical contaminant particles, in the environment and in vivo.