Transport of bare and capped zinc oxide nanoparticles is dependent on porous medium composition

H Kurlanda-Witek, B T Ngwenya, I B Butler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Zinc oxide (ZnO) nanoparticles are one of the most frequently used nanoparticles in industry and hence are likely to be introduced to the groundwater environment. The mobility of these nanoparticles in different aquifer materials has not been assessed. While some studies have been published on the transport of ZnO nanoparticles in individual porous media, these studies do not generally account for varying porous medium composition both within and between aquifers. As a first step towards understanding the impact of this variability, this paper compares the transport of bare ZnO nanoparticles (bZnO-NPs) and capped ZnO nanoparticles, coated with tri-aminopropyltriethoxysilane (cZnO-NPs), in saturated columns packed with glass beads, fine grained sand and fine grained calcite, at near-neutral pH and groundwater salinity levels. With the exception of cZnO-NPs in sand columns, ZnO nanoparticles are highly immobile in all three types of studied porous media, with most retention taking place near the column inlet. Results are in general agreement with DLVO theory, and the deviation in experiments with cZnO-NPs flowing through columns packed with sand is linked to variability in zeta potential of the capped nanoparticles and sand grains. Therefore, differences in surface charge of nanoparticles and porous media are demonstrated to be key drivers in nanoparticle transport.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-26
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Contaminant Hydrology
Early online date13 Apr 2013
Publication statusPublished - 13 Apr 2014


  • Nanoparticles
  • Transport
  • Porous media


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