The stability of nanoparticles in aquatic environment plays an important role in determining their environmental implication and potential risk to human health. This research studied the impact of natural organic matter (NOM) and divalent cations (Ca2+) on the stability of engineered metal oxide nanoparticles (e.g. ZnO, NiO, TiO2, Fe2O3 and SiO2). When nanoparticles were present in neutral water, a relatively weak electrolyte concentration (0.01 M KCl) could result in their aggregation; however, with the addition of 1 mg/L NOM, the negative surface charge of nanoparticles increased significantly and therefore their propensity to aggregate is reduced. 4 mg/L NOM stabilized most nanoparticles by producing -30 mV or higher zeta potentials. On the other hand, the negative charge that NOM imparted to nanoparticles could be neutralized by divalent cations (calcium ions). 0.04 M-0.06 M Ca2+ induced the aggregation of NOM-coated nanoparticles. It should be noted that among all the studied nanoparticles, SiO2 exhibited the unique stability due to its low NOM adsorption capacity and small Hamaker constant. SiO2 remained stable no matter whether the solution contained NOM or Ca2+.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4249-4257
Number of pages9
JournalWater Research
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 2009


  • Aggregation
  • Calcium ions
  • NOM
  • Nanoparticles
  • Stability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecological Modeling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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