Increasing application of engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) in industry and consumer products inevitably lead to their release into and impact on aquatic environments. To characterize the NMs efficiently in surface water, a fast and simple method is needed to separate and concentrate nanomaterials from the aqueous matrix without altering their shape and size. Applying cloud-point extraction (CPE) using the surfactant Triton 114 to an array of NMs (titanium dioxide, gold, silver, and silicon dioxide) with different sizes or capping agents in nanopure water resulted in extraction efficiency of 83%–107%. Additional CPE experiments were conducted to extract NMs from surface, potable, and sewage waters, and NMs enriched in the surfactant phase were characterized using transmission electron microscopy coupled with energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy. The most abundant nanoparticles identified in surface water were silica, titanium dioxide, and iron oxide with 4–99 nm diameter. The extraction efficiencies of CPE for silicon, titanium, and iron elements from environmental water samples were 51%, 15%, and 99%, respectively. This study applied CPE with TEM to enrich and analyze popular nanoparticles such as SiO2 and TiO2 from natural waters, which has not been well addressed by previous researches. Overall, CPE coupled with transmission electron microscopy (TEM) can be an effective method to characterize NMs in aqueous water samples, and further optimization will increase the extraction efficiency of NMs in complicated surface water matrix.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)515-522
Number of pages8
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Apr 15 2017


  • Cloud-point extraction
  • Exposure
  • Nanomaterial
  • Water

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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