Sampling and characterising groundwater nanoparticles in sub-oxic environments

Lapworth, D.J. ORCID:; Stolpe, B.; Gooddy, D.C.; Lead, J.R.. 2011 Sampling and characterising groundwater nanoparticles in sub-oxic environments. Nottingham, UK, British Geological Survey, 40pp. (IR/11/021) (Unpublished)

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Characterising nanoparticles is important for understanding physiochemical and biogeochemical processes occurring within groundwater bodies e.g. those impacted by the migration of leachates from waste storage sites as well as monitoring the use of engineered nanotechnology for pollution attenuation. While characterising nano-scale particles (both natural and engineered) within sub-oxic environments is a challenging task, it is critical for understanding pollution attenuation and migration within a number of different environments. The overall aim of this study was to develop a robust sampling and analytical methodology for characterising nanoparticles in sub-oxic environments using a range of complementary methods. This study has successfully sampled and characterised nano-scale particulate material in sub-oxic groundwaters within an alluvial floodplain aquifer impacted by a landfull plume. The integrity of the sample was maintained throughout the field and laboratory work to ensure that only nanoparticles representative of the sub-oxic environment were characterised. Nanoparticles from two pairs of nested boreholes were characterised by a number of state-of-the-art methods; atomic force microscopy (AFM), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), scanning transmisson electron microscopy (TEM) and field flow fractionation (FFF), to explore particle size distributions, morphology and surface chemistry. It is important to characterise nanoparticles in environmental contexts using multiple techniques as each method has its own benefits and limitations (Lead and Wilkinson 2006). As far as the authors are aware this is the first such study in the UK to isolate and characterise sub-oxic groundwater nanoparticles using these complimentary techniques. Groundwaters were found to have abundant iron and organic nanoparticles with diameters <30 nm. AFM results showed spherical nanoparticles with average diameters of ca 10 nm, while FFF with UV absorbance (254 nm) results indicated that smaller fulvic-like nanoparticles were present with average hydrodynamic diameters of ca. 1.5 nm. FFF with UV absorbance detection at 575 nm showed that another population of organic rich nanoparticles was present with larger hydrodynamic diameters (ca. 3 nm) in the groundwater at nest 26, but were not present in nest 28. These larger organic nanoparticles perhaps represent co-aggregated humic-like particles or another distinct type of organic matter. Scanning TEM analysis with energy-dispersive X-ray diffraction showed that Ca rich nanoparticles were present within the groundwater at a number of sites, and that P was associated with the surface of Fe rich particles in nest 28. Aeration of sub-oxic samples resulted in a dramatic shift in the nanoparticle size distribution. This was a result of the aggregation of smaller nanoparticles to form larger agglomerations with diameters typically >50-100 nm. This is analogous to processes that occur during groundwater aeration for water treatment, and mixing of anaerobic and aerobic environmental waters, e.g. during rapid recharge events, flooding, hyporheic zone mixing, waste water treatment and waste water inputs to surface waters. The techniques developed in this study have potential wider applications for understanding the occurrence and fate of natural and anthropogenic (engineered) nanoparticles in sub-oxic conditions, such as the fate of nanoparticles injected for pollution attenuation, those found below landfill sites, within waste water treatment works and the hyporheic zone which are all important redox hot-spots for pollution attenuation and biological activity.

Item Type: Publication - Report
Programmes: BGS Programmes 2010 > Groundwater Science
Funders/Sponsors: British Geological Survey, Facility for Environmental Nanoscience Analysis and Characterisation (FENAC)
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Report made open by author in March 2018. This item has been internally reviewed, but not externally peer-reviewed.
Additional Keywords: GroundwaterBGS, Groundwater, Groundwater quality
Date made live: 05 Mar 2018 14:00 +0 (UTC)

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