Silver Nanoparticles in Natural Environment: Formation, Fate, and Toxicity

  • Virender K. SharmaEmail author
  • Radek Zboril
Part of the Nanomedicine and Nanotoxicology book series (NANOMED)


In recent years, there has been growing interest in the existence of natural nanoparticles in the environment and their subsequent influence to the ecological health. This chapter presents the current status on thermally- and light-induced formation of silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) under environmentally relevant conditions. Influenced environmental parameters include temperature, pH, oxic/anoxic environment, and concentrations of precursors Ag+ ions and natural organic matter (NOM). Surface-catalyzed reduction of Ag+ could describe the formation of AgNPs under various conditions. The redox species of iron (Fe(II)/Fe(III)) in the thermally induced processes enhanced the formation of AgNPs. Moieties of NOM, Ag–NOM complexes, and reactive oxygen species, ROS (e.g., \( {{\text{O}}_{2}}^{\cdot - } \)) were provoked to explain the formation of AgNPs. Stability studies on formed AgNPs from Ag(I)–NOM reaction mixtures have shown their stability for days to several months. However, cations of the natural waters such as Na+, K+, Mg2+, and Ca2+ can destabilize the AgNPs. A preliminary investigation on the toxicity of AgNPs, formed in the mixture of Ag+-humic acid, suggests that lower minimum inhibition concentration against Gram-negative bacteria and Gram-positive bacteria compared to engineered AgNPs.


Noble metals Natural nanoparticles Organic matter Stability Toxicity 



V.K. Sharma and R. Zboril acknowledge the support by the Operational Program Research and Development for Innovations-European Regional Development Fund (CZ.1.05/2.1.00/03.0058). V.K. Sharma thanks the Program for the Environment and Sustainability.


  1. 1.
    Soenen SJ, Parak WJ, Rejman J, Manshian B (2015) (Intra)cellular stability of inorganic nanoparticles: effects on cytotoxicity, particle functionality, and biomedical applications. Chem Rev 115:2109–2135CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Mu Q, Jiang G, Chen L, Zhou H, Fourches D, Tropsha A, Yan B (2014) Chemical basis of interactions between engineered nanoparticles and biological systems. Chem Rev 114:7740–7781CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Bandyopadhyay S, Peralta-Videa JR, Gardea-Torresdey JL (2013) Advanced analytical techniques for the measurement of nanomaterials in food and agricultural samples: a review. Environ Eng Sci 30:118–125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Mohammadinejad R, Karimi S, Iravani S, Varma RS (2015) Plant-derived nanostructures: types and applications. Green Chem 18:20–52CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Varma RS (2012) Greener approach to nanomaterials and their sustainable applications. Curr Opin Chem Eng 1:123–128CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Rizzello L, Pompa PP (2014) Nanosilver-based antibacterial drugs and devices: mechanisms, methodological drawbacks, and guidelines. Chem Soc Rev 43:1501–1518CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Stark WJ, Stoesset PR, Wohlleben W, Hafner A (2015) Industrial applications of nanoparticles. Chem Soc Rev 44:5793–5806CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Philippe A, Schaumann GE (2014) Interactions of dissolved organic matter with natural and engineered inorganic colloids: a review. Environ Sci Technol 48:8946–8962CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Quigg A, Chin WC, Chen CS, Zhang S, Jiang Y, Miao AJ, Schwehr KA, Xu C, Santschi PH (2013) Direct and indirect toxic effects of engineered nanoparticles on algae: role of natural organic matter. ACS Sustain Chem Eng 1:686–702CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Sharma VK, Filip J, Zboril R, Varma RS (2015) Natural inorganic nanoparticles: formation, fate, and toxicity in the environment. Chem Soc Rev 44:8410–8423CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Noubactep C, Caré S, Crane R (2012) Nanoscale metallic iron for environmental remediation: prospects and limitations. Water Air Soil Pollut 223:1363–1382CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Sánchez A, Recillas S, Font X, Casals E, González E, Puntes V (2011) Ecotoxicity of, and remediation with, engineered inorganic nanoparticles in the environment. Trends Anal Chem 30:507–516CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Zhang Y, Bai Y, Jia J, Gao N, Li Y, Zhang R, Jiang G, Yan B (2014) Perturbation of physiological systems by nanoparticles. Chem Soc Rev 43:3762–3809CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Pati SS, Singh LH, Guimarães EM, Mantilla J, Coaquira JAH, Oliveira AC, Sharma VK, Garg VK (2016) Magnetic chitosan-functionalized Fe3O4@Au nanoparticles: synthesis and characterization. J Alloys Compd 684:68–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Lohse SE, Murphy CJ (2012) Applications of colloidal inorganic nanoparticles: from medicine to energy. J Am Chem Soc 134:15607–15620CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Panáček A, Kvítek L, Prucek R, Kolář M, Večeřová R, Pizúrová N, Sharma VK, Nevěčná T, Zbořil R (2006) Silver colloid nanoparticles: synthesis, characterization, and their antibacterial activity. J Phys Chem B 110:16248–16253CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Sharma VK, Yngard RA, Lin Y (2009) Silver nanoparticles: green synthesis and their antimicrobial activities. Adv Colloid Interface Sci 145:83–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Batley GE, Kirby JK, McLaughlin MJ (2013) Fate and risks of nanomaterials in aquatic and terrestrial environments. Acc Chem Res 46:I854–I862CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Nadagouda MN, Iyanna N, Lalley J, Han C, Dionysiou DD, Varma RS (2014) Synthesis of silver and gold nanoparticles using antioxidants from blackberry, blueberry, pomegranate, and turmeric extracts. ACS Sustain Chem Eng 2:1717–1723CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Virkutyte J, Varma RS (2011) Green synthesis of metal nanoparticles: biodegradable polymers and enzymes in stabilization and surface functionalization. Chem Sci 2:837–846CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Alexander JW (2009) History of the medical use of silver. Surg Infect 10:289–292CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Tang S, Wang M, Germ KE, Du HM, Sun WJ, Gao WM, Mayer GD (2015) Health implications of engineered nanoparticles in infants and children. World J Pediatr 11:197–206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Guo H, Zhang Z, Xing B, Mukherjee A, Musante C, White JC, He L (2015) Analysis of silver nanoparticles in antimicrobial products using surface-enhanced raman spectroscopy (SERS). Environ Sci Technol 49:4317–4324CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Mitrano DM, Motellier S, Clavaguera S, Nowack B (2015) Review of nanomaterial aging and transformations through the life cycle of nano-enhanced products. Environ Int 77:132–147CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Wigger H, Hackmann S, Zimmermann T, Köser J, Thöming J, von Gleich A (2015) Influences of use activities and waste management on environmental releases of engineered nanomaterials. Sci Total Environ 535:160–171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Lowry GV, Espinasse BP, Badireddy AR, Richardson CJ, Reinsch BC, Bryant LD, Bone AJ, Deonarine A, Chae S, Therezien M, Colman BP, Hsu-Kim H, Bernhardt ES, Matson CW, Wiesner MR (2012) Long-term transformation and fate of manufactured Ag nanoparticles in a simulated large scale freshwater emergent wetland. Environ Sci Technol 46:7027–7036CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Krzyzewska I, Kyziol-Komosinska J, Rosik-Dulewska C, Czupiol J, Antoszczyszyn-Szpicka P (2016) Inorganic nanomaterials in the aquatic environment: behavior, toxicity, and interaction with environmental elements. Arch Environ Prot 42:87–101Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Holden PA, Nisbet RM, Lenihan HS, Miller RJ, Cherr GN, Schimel JP, Gardea-Torresdey J (2013) Ecological nanotoxicology: Integrating nanomaterial hazard considerations across the subcellular, population, community, and ecosystems levels. Acc Chem Res 46:813–822CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Sharma VK, Siskova K, Zboril R, Gardea-Torresdey J (2014) Organic-coated silver nanoparticles in biological and environmental conditions: Fate, stability and toxicity. Adv Colloid Int Sci 204:15–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Ellis LJA, Valsami-Jones E, Lead JR, Baalousha M (2016) Impact of surface coating and environmental conditions on the fate and transport of silver nanoparticles in the aquatic environment. Sci Total Environ 568:95–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Arturo Gómez-Caballero J, Guadalupe Villaseñor-Cabral M, Santiago-Jacinto P, Ponce-Abad F (2010) Hypogene Ba-rich todorokite and associated nanometric native silver in the San Miguel Tenango mining area, Zacatlán, Puebla, Mexico. Can Mineral 48:1237–1253CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Wen LS, Santschi PH, Gill GA, Paternostro CL, Lehman RD (1997) Colloidal and particulate silver in river and estuarine waters of Texas. Environ Sci Technol 31:723–731CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Gartman A, Findlay AJ, Luther GW (2014) Nanoparticulate pyrite and other nanoparticles are a widespread component of hydrothermal vent black smoker emissions. Chem Geol 366:32–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Furtado LM, Bundschuh M, Metcalfe CD (2016) Monitoring the fate and transformation of silver nanoparticles in natural waters. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 97:1–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Akaighe N, MacCuspie RI, Navarro DA, Aga DS, Banerjee S, Sohn M, Sharma VK (2011) Humic acid-induced silver nanoparticle formation under environmentally relevant conditions. Environ Sci Technol 45:3895–3901CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Adegboyega NF, Sharma VK, Siskova K, Zbořil R, Sohn M, Banerjee S (2013) Interactions of aqueous Ag+ with fulvic acids: mechanisms of silver nanoparticle formation and investigation of stability. Environ Sci Technol 47:757–764CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Henglein A (1989) Non-metallic silver clusters in aqueous solution: stabilization and chemical reactions. Chem Phys Lett 154:473–476CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Gentry ST, Fredericks SJ, Krchnavek R (2009) Controlled particle growth of silver sols through the use of hydroquinone as a selective reducing agent. Langmuir 25:2613–2621CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Rose AL, Waite TD (2003) Kinetics of iron complexation by dissolved natural organic matter in coastal waters. Mar Chem 84:85–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Rose AL, Waite TD (2003) Effect of dissolved natural organic matter on the kinetics of ferrous iron oxygenation in seawater. Environ Sci Technol 37:4877–4886CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Rose AL, Waite TD (2003) Kinetics of hydrolysis and precipitation of ferric iron in seawater. Environ Sci Technol 37:3897–3903CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Wilson SA, Weber JH (1977) A comparative study of number-average dissociation-corrected molecular weights of fulvic acids isolated from water and soil. Chem Geol 19:285–293CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Struyk Z, Sposito G (2001) Redox properties of standard humic acids. Geoderma 102:329–346CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Takesue M, Tomura T, Yamada M, Hata K, Kuwamoto S, Yonezawa T (2011) Size of elementary clusters and process period in silver nanoparticle formation. J Am Chem Soc 133:14164–14167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Kvítek L, Prucek R, Panáček A, Novotný R, Hrbáč J, Zbořil R (2005) The influence of complexing agent concentration on particle size in the process of SERS active silver colloid synthesis. J Mater Chem 15:1099–1105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Adegboyega NF, Sharma VK, Siskova KM, Vecerova R, Kolar M, Zboril R, Gardea-Torresdey JL (2014) Enhanced formation of silver nanoparticles in Ag+–NOM–iron(II, III) systems and antibacterial activity studies. Environ Sci Technol 48:3228–3235CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    Jones AM, Pham AN, Collins RN, Waite TD (2009) Dissociation kinetics of Fe(III)- and Al(III)-natural organic matter complexes at pH 6.0 and 8.0 and 25 °C. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 73:2875–2887CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Jones AM, Garg S, He D, Pham AN, Waite TD (2011) Superoxide-mediated formation and charging of silver nanoparticles. Environ Sci Technol 45:1428–1434CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. 49.
    Rose AL, Waite TD (2002) Kinetic model for Fe(II) oxidation in seawater in the absence and presence of natural organic matter. Environ Sci Technol 36:433–444CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. 50.
    Liu Z, Xie P, Ma J (2016) Aqueous photoproduction of Au nanoparticles by natural organic matter: effect of NaBH4 reduction. Environ Sci Nano 3:707–714CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. 51.
    Stamplecoskie KG, Scaiano JC (2012) Silver as an example of the applications of photochemistry to the synthesis and uses of nanomaterials. Photochem Photobiol 88:762–768CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. 52.
    Sudeep PK, Kamat PV (2005) Photosensitized growth of silver nanoparticles under visible light irradiation: a mechanistic investigation. Chem Mater 17:5404–5410CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. 53.
    Tselepis E, Fortin E (1986) Preparation and photovoltaic properties of anodically grown Ag2O films. J Mater Sci 21:985–988CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. 54.
    Wang W, Zafiriou OC, Chan IY, Zepp RG, Blough NV (2007) Production of hydrated electrons from photoionization of dissolved organic matter in natural waters. Environ Sci Technol 41:1601–1607CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. 55.
    He D, Jones AM, Garg S, Pham AN, Waite TD (2011) Silver nanoparticle-reactive oxygen species interactions: application of a charging-discharging model. J Phys Chem C 115:5461–5468CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. 56.
    Yin Y, Liu J, Jiang G (2012) Sunlight-induced reduction of ionic Ag and Au to metallic nanoparticles by dissolved organic matter. ACS Nano 6:7910–7919CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. 57.
    Hou WC, Stuart B, Howes R, Zepp RG (2013) Sunlight-driven reduction of silver ions by natural organic matter: formation and transformation of silver nanoparticles. Environ Sci Technol 47:7713–7721CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. 58.
    Adegboyega NF, Sharma VK, Cizmas L, Sayes CM (2016) UV light induces Ag nanoparticle formation: roles of natural organic matter, iron, and oxygen. Environ Chem Lett 14:353–357CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. 59.
    Akaighe N, Depner SW, Banerjee S, Sharma VK, Sohn M (2012) The effects of monovalent and divalent cations on the stability of silver nanoparticles formed from direct reduction of silver ions by Suwannee River humic acid/natural organic matter. Sci Total Environ 441:277–289CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. 60.
    El Badawy AM, Luxton TP, Silva RG, Scheckel KG, Suidan MT, Tolaymat TM (2010) Impact of environmental conditions (pH, ionic strength, and electrolyte type) on the surface charge and aggregation of silver nanoparticles suspensions. Environ Sci Technol 44:1260–1266CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Program for the Environment and Sustainability, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, School of Public HealthTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA
  2. 2.Regional Centre of Advanced Technologies and Materials, Departments of Experimental Physics and Physical Chemistry, Faculty of SciencePalacký University in OlomoucOlomoucCzech Republic

Personalised recommendations