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Silver and gold nanoparticle separation using asymmetrical flow-field flow fractionation: Influence of run conditions and of particle and membrane charges

: Meisterjahn, Boris; Wagner, Stephan; Kammer, Frank von der; Hennecke, Dieter; Hofmann, Thilo


Journal of chromatography. A 1440 (2016), pp.150-159
ISSN: 0021-9673
Journal Article
Fraunhofer IME ()
flow field-flow fractionation; method optimization; silver nanoparticles; gold nanoparticles; method development; particle-membrane interactions

Flow-Field Flow Fractionation (Flow-FFF), coupled with online detection systems is one of the most promising tools available for the separation and quantification of engineered nanoparticles (ENPs) incomplex matrices. To correctly relate the retention of nanoparticles in the Flow-FFF-channel to the particle size, ideal separation conditions must be met. This requires optimization of the parameters that influence the separation behavior. The aim of this study was therefore to systematically investigate and evaluate the influence of parameters such as the carrier liquid, the cross flow, and the membrane material,on the separation behavior of two metallic ENPs. For this purpose the retention, recovery, and separation efficiency of sterically stabilized silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) and electrostatically stabilized gold nanoparticles (AuNPs), which represent two materials widely used in investigations on environmental fate and ecotoxicology, were investigated against a parameter matrix of three different cross-flow densities, four representative carrier solutions, and two membrane materials.
The use of a complex mixture of buffers, ionic and non-ionic surfactants (FL-70 solution) together with a medium cross-flow density provided an acceptable compromise in peak quality and recovery for both types of ENPs. However, these separation conditions do not represent a perfect match for both particle types at the same time (maximized recovery at maximized retention). It could be shown that the behavior of particles within Flow-FFF channels cannot be predicted orexplained purely in terms of electrostatic interactions. Particles were irreversibly lost under conditions where the measured zeta potentials suggested that there should have been sufficient electrostatic repulsion to ensure stabilization of the particles in the Flow-FFF channel resulting in good recoveries.
The wide variations that we observed in ENP behavior under different conditions, together with the different behavior that has been reported in published literature for the same NPs under similar conditions,indicate a need for improvement in the membrane materials used for Flow-FFF analysis of NPs.
This research has shown that careful adjustment of separation conditions can result in acceptable, but not ideal, separation conditions for two fundamentally different stabilized materials, and that it may not be possible to separate a set of different particles under ideal conditions for each particle type. This therefore needs to be taking into account in method development and when interpreting FFF results from complex samples.