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Influence of dissolved organic matter on the environmental fate of metals, nanoparticles, and colloids

January 1, 2011

We have known for decades that dissolved organic matter (DOM) plays a critical role in the biogeochemical cycling of trace metals and the mobility of colloidal particles in aquatic environments. In recent years, concerns about the ecological and human health effects of metal-based engineered nanoparticles released into natural waters have increased efforts to better define the nature of DOM interactions with metals and surfaces. Nanomaterials exhibit unique properties and enhanced reactivities that are not apparent in larger materials of the same composition1,2 or dissolved ions of metals that comprise the nanoparticles. These nanoparticle-specific properties generally result from the relatively large proportion of the atoms located at the surface, which leads to very high specific surface areas and a high proportion of crystal lattice imperfections relative to exposed surface area. Nanoscale colloids are ubiquitous in nature,2 and many engineered nanomaterials have analogs in the natural world. The properties of these materials, whether natural or manmade, are poorly understood, and new challenges have been presented in assessing their environmental fate. These challenges are particularly relevant in aquatic environments where interactions with DOM are key, albeit often overlooked, moderators of reactivity at the molecular and nanocolloidal scales.

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