Reduction of Ionic Silver by Sulfur Dioxide as a Source of Silver Nanoparticles in the Environment. Academic Article uri icon


  • The natural formation of silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) via biotic and abiotic pathways in water and soil media contributes to the biogeochemical cycle of silver metal in the environment. However, the formation of AgNPs in the atmosphere has not been reported. Here, we describe a previously unreported source of AgNPs via the reduction of Ag(I) by SO2 in the atmosphere, especially in moist environments, using multipronged advanced analytical and surface techniques. The rapid reduction of Ag(I) in the atmospheric aqueous phase was mainly caused by the sulfite ions formed from the dissolution of SO2 in water, which contributed to the formation of AgNPs and was consistent with the Finke-Watzky model with a major contribution of the reduction-nucleation process. Sunlight irradiation excited SO2 to form triplet SO2, which reacted with water to form H2SO3 and greatly enhanced Ag(I) reduction and AgNP formation. Different pH values affected the speciation of Ag(I) and S(IV), which were jointly involved in the reduction of Ag(I). The formation of AgNPs was also observed in the atmospheric gas phase via direct reduction of Ag(I) by SO2(gas), which occurred even in 50 ppbv SO2(gas). The natural occurrence of AgNPs in the atmosphere may also be involved in silver corrosion, AgNP transformation and regeneration, detoxification of gaseous pollutants, and the sulfur cycle in the environment.

published proceedings

  • Environ Sci Technol

altmetric score

  • 0.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Hao, Z., Li, F., Liu, R., Zhou, X., Mu, Y., Sharma, V. K., Liu, J., & Jiang, G.

citation count

  • 7

complete list of authors

  • Hao, Zhineng||Li, Fasong||Liu, Rui||Zhou, Xiaoxia||Mu, Yujing||Sharma, Virender K||Liu, Jingfu||Jiang, Guibin

publication date

  • April 2021