Developing and interpreting aqueous functional assays for comparative property-activity relationships of different nanoparticles

Justin M. Kidd, David Hanigan, Lisa Truong, Kiril Hristovski, Robert Tanguay, Paul Westerhoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


It is difficult to relate intrinsic nanomaterial properties to their functional behavior in the environment. Unlike frameworks for dissolved organic chemicals, there are few frameworks comparing multiple and inter-related properties of engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) to their fate, exposure, and hazard in environmental systems. We developed and evaluated reproducibility and inter-correlation of 12 physical, chemical, and biological functional assays in water for eight different engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) and interpreted results using activity-profiling radar plots. The functional assays were highly reproducible when run in triplicate (average coefficient of variation [CV] = 6.6%). Radar plots showed that each nanomaterial exhibited unique activity profiles. Reactivity assays showed dissolution or aggregation potential for some ENMs. Surprisingly, multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) exhibited movement in a magnetic field. We found high inter-correlations between cloud point extraction (CPE) and distribution to sewage sludge (R2 = 0.99), dissolution at pH 8 and pH 4.9 (R2 = 0.98), and dissolution at pH 8 and zebrafish mortality at 24 hpf (R2 = 0.94). Additionally, most ENMs tend to distribute out of water and into other phases (i.e., soil surfaces, surfactant micelles, and sewage sludge). The activity-profiling radar plots provide a framework and estimations of likely ENM disposition in the environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1609-1616
Number of pages8
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018


  • Exposure
  • Fate
  • Hazard
  • Nanoparticle
  • Water

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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