Effect of surface coating composition on quantum dot mobility in porous media

  • Yonggang Wang
  • Huiguang Zhu
  • Matthew D. Becker
  • Jessica Englehart
  • Linda M. Abriola
  • Vicki L. Colvin
  • Kurt D. Pennell
Research Paper


Quantum dots (QDs) have received considerable attention due to their unique optical and electrical properties. Although substantial research has focused on the potential applications and toxicological impacts of QDs, far less effort has been directed toward understanding their fate and transport in the environment. In this work, the effect of four coatings, polyethylene glycol functionalized polymer (PEGP), carboxyl derivatized polymer (COOHP), linoleic acid (LA), and polyacrylic acid-octylamine (PAA-OA), on the transport and retention of QDs in porous media were evaluated under environmentally relevant conditions. Aqueous QD suspensions (ca. 10 nM) were introduced into water-saturated columns packed with 40–50 mesh Ottawa sand at a pore-water velocity of 7.6 m/day. At an ionic strength (IS) of 3 mM and pH of 7, PEGP-coated QDs were completely retained within the column, while more than 60 % of COOHP-coated QDs were transported through a column run under identical conditions. When PAA-OA and LA were used as coatings, effluent QD recoveries increased to more than 65 and 89 % of the injected mass, respectively. Additionally, a decrease in pH from 9.5 to 5.0, or an increase of IS from 0 to 30 mM reduced the eluted mass of PAA-OA-coated QDs by more than 2 and 15 times, respectively. The relative mobility of coated QDs (LA > PAA-OA > COOHP > PEGP) was consistent with total interaction energy profiles between QDs and sand surfaces calculated based on Derjaguin–Landau–Verwey–Overbeek (DLVO) theory. At an IS of 3 mM (NaCl) and pH 7, a linear correlation was obtained between the fraction of eluted QDs and the magnitude of the primary interaction energy barrier. These findings demonstrate the strong dependence of QD transport on coating type and indicate that interaction energies based on DLVO theory can be used to predict the relative mobility of QDs in porous media.


Quantum dots Transport Porous media Surface coating DLVO theory Steric repulsion 



We thank Martin Hunter and Dr. David Kaplan of Tufts University for assistance with fluorescence imaging. This research was funded by the Advanced Energy Consortium (AEC) as part of Award No. BEG 08-01. Quantum dot imaging was performed at the Harvard University Center for Nanoscale Systems (CNS), a member of the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network (NNIN), which is sponsored by the National Science Foundation under NSF Award No. ECS-0335765.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yonggang Wang
    • 1
  • Huiguang Zhu
    • 2
  • Matthew D. Becker
    • 1
  • Jessica Englehart
    • 1
  • Linda M. Abriola
    • 1
  • Vicki L. Colvin
    • 2
  • Kurt D. Pennell
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringTufts UniversityMedfordUSA
  2. 2.Department of ChemistryRice UniversityHoustonUSA

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