Effects of engineered nanoparticles on the assembly of exopolymeric substances from phytoplankton. Academic Article uri icon


  • The unique properties of engineered nanoparticles (ENs) that make their industrial applications so attractive simultaneously raise questions regarding their environmental safety. ENs exhibit behaviors different from bulk materials with identical chemical compositions. Though the nanotoxicity of ENs has been studied intensively, their unintended environmental impacts remain largely unknown. Herein we report experimental results of EN interactions with exopolymeric substances (EPS) from three marine phytoplankton species: Amphora sp., Ankistrodesmus angustus and Phaeodactylum tricornutum. EPS are polysaccharide-rich anionic colloid polymers released by various microorganisms that can assemble into microgels, possibly by means of hydrophobic and ionic mechanisms. Polystyrene nanoparticles (23 nm) were used in our study as model ENs. The effects of ENs on EPS assembly were monitored with dynamic laser scattering (DLS). We found that ENs can induce significant acceleration in Amphora sp. EPS assembly; after 72 hours EN-EPS aggregation reached equilibrium, forming microscopic gels of 4-6 m in size. In contrast, ENs only cause moderate assembly kinetic acceleration for A. angustus and P. tricornutum EPS samples. Our results indicate that the effects of ENs on EPS assembly kinetics mainly depend on the hydrophobic interactions of ENs with EPS polymers. The cycling mechanism of EPS is complex. Nonetheless, the change of EPS assembly kinetics induced by ENs can be considered as one potential disturbance to the marine carbon cycle.

published proceedings

  • PLoS One

altmetric score

  • 0.75

author list (cited authors)

  • Chen, C., Anaya, J. M., Zhang, S., Spurgin, J., Chuang, C., Xu, C., ... Chin, W.

citation count

  • 94

complete list of authors

  • Chen, Chi-Shuo||Anaya, Jesse M||Zhang, Saijin||Spurgin, Jessica||Chuang, Chia-Ying||Xu, Chen||Miao, Ai-Jun||Chen, Eric Y-T||Schwehr, Kathleen A||Jiang, Yuelu||Quigg, Antonietta||Santschi, Peter H||Chin, Wei-Chun

editor list (cited editors)

  • Johnson, S. J.

publication date

  • July 2011