The goal of this study was to examine the effects of pH and ionic strength on octanol-water distribution of five model engineered nanomaterials. Distribution experiments resulted in a spectrum of three broadly classified scenarios: distribution in the aqueous phase, distribution in the octanol, and distribution into the octanol-water interface. Two distribution coefficients were derived to describe the distribution of nanoparticles among octanol, water and their interface. The results show that particle surface charge, surface functionalization, and composition, as well as the solvent ionic strength and presence of natural organic matter, dramatically impact this distribution. Distributions of nanoparticles into the interface were significant for nanomaterials that exhibit low surface charge in natural pH ranges. Increased ionic strengths also contributed to increased distributions of nanoparticle into the interface. Similarly to the octanol-water distribution coefficients, which represent a starting point in predicting the environmental fate, bioavailability and transport of organic pollutants, distribution coefficients such as the ones described in this study could help to easily predict the fate, bioavailability, and transport of engineered nanomaterials in the environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)636-647
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Environmental Science and Health - Part A Toxic/Hazardous Substances and Environmental Engineering
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2011


  • Distribution
  • Nanoparticles
  • Octanol
  • Water

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering


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