Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 20, Issue 7, pp 4872–4880 | Cite as

Stability of core/shell quantum dots—role of pH and small organic ligands

  • Rute F. Domingos
  • Cristiana Franco
  • José P. Pinheiro
Research Article


The improvement of knowledge about the toxicity and even processability, and stability of quantum dots (QD) requires the understanding of the relationship between the QD binding head group, surface structure, and interligand interaction. The scanned stripping chronopotentiometry and absence of gradients and Nernstian equilibrium stripping techniques were used to determine the concentration of Cd dissolved from a polyacrylate-stabilized CdTe/CdS QD. The effects of various concentrations of small organic ligands such as citric acid, glycine, and histidine and the roles of pH (4.5–8.5) and exposure time (0–48 h) were evaluated. The highest QD dissolution was obtained at the more acidic pH in absence of the ligands (52 %) a result of the CdS shell solubility. At pH 8.5 the largest PAA ability to complex the dissolved Cd leads to a further QD solubility until the equilibrium is reached (24 % of dissolved Cd vs. 4 % at pH 6.0). The citric acid presence resulted in greater QD dissolution, whereas glycine, an amino acid, acts against QD dissolution. Surprisingly, the presence of histidine, an amino acid with an imidazole functional group, leads to the formation of much strong Cd complexes over time, which may be non-labile, inducing variations in the local environment of the QD surface.


Quantum dots Stability Dissolution Speciation Bioavailability Organic ligands 



Funding for this work was provided by the Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT), Portugal: Science 2008 IST-CQE3 “Environmental Chemistry” Assistant Researcher position to RFD and Project PTDC/AAC-AMB/111998/2009. JPP acknowledges the FCT funding support: Project Pest-OE/EQB/LA0023/2011.

Supplementary material

11356_2012_1457_MOESM1_ESM.docx (38 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 38 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rute F. Domingos
    • 1
  • Cristiana Franco
    • 1
  • José P. Pinheiro
    • 2
  1. 1.Centro de Química Estrutural, Instituto Superior TécnicoUniversidade Técnica de LisboaLisbonPortugal
  2. 2.Centro de Biomedicina Molecular Estrutural CBME/IBB, LAUniversidade do AlgarveFaroPortugal

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