Mobility of electrostatically and sterically stabilized gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) in saturated porous media

  • Annika S. FjordbøgeEmail author
  • Basil Uthuppu
  • Mogens H. Jakobsen
  • Søren V. Fischer
  • Mette M. Broholm
Research Article


The stability of gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) stabilized electrostatically with citrate or (electro)sterically by commercially available amphiphilic block copolymers (PVP-VA or PVA-COOH) was studied under various physicochemical conditions. Subsequently, the mobility of the AuNPs in porous media (sand) was investigated in column studies under environmental relevant physicochemical conditions. Electrostatically stabilized AuNPs were unstable under most physicochemical conditions due to the compression of the electrical double layer. Consequently, aggregation and deposition rapidly immobilized the AuNPs. Sterically stabilized AuNPs showed significantly less sensitivity towards changes in the physicochemical conditions with high stability, high mobility with negligible retardation, and particle deposition rate coefficients ranging an order of magnitude (1.5 × 10−3 to 1.5 × 10−2 min−1) depending on the type and amount of stabilizer, and thereby the surface coverage and attachment affinity. The transport of sterically stabilized AuNPs is facilitated by reversible deposition in shallow energy minima with continuous reentrainment and blocking of available attachment sites by deposited AuNPs. The stability and mobility of NPs in the environment will thereby be highly dependent on the specific stabilizing agent and variations in the coverage on the NP. Under the given experimental conditions, transport distances of the most mobile AuNPs of up to 20 m is expected. Due to their size-specific plasmonic properties, the easily detectable AuNPs are proposed as potential model or tracer particles for studying transport of various stabilized NPs under environmental conditions.


Gold nanoparticles Model nanoparticles Citrate Amphiphilic block copolymers Stability Mobility 



We would like to acknowledge B.Sc. Eva Caspersen for her contribution to the laboratory work.

Funding information

This work was funded by the joint Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology and Technical University of Denmark (KAIST-DTU) signature project, INtegrated WAter Technology.

Supplementary material

11356_2019_6132_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (193 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 193 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental EngineeringTechnical University of DenmarkKgs. LyngbyDenmark
  2. 2.Department of Micro- and NanotechnologyTechnical University of DenmarkKgs. LyngbyDenmark

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