The fate of iron nanoparticles in environmental waters treated with nanoscale zero-valent iron, FeONPs and Fe3O4NPs
Among the different nanoparticles (NPs) that are used in the remediation of contaminated environmental waters, iron nanoparticles (FeNPs) are the most frequently applied. However, if these FeNPs remain in the waters after the treatment, they can cause a hazard to the environment. In this work the time dependent size distribution of iron particles was investigated in Milli-Q water, forest spring water and landfill leachate after a variety of FeNP treatments. The efficiency of the metal removal by the FeNPs was also examined. The concentrations of the metals in the aqueous samples were determined before and after the nano-remediation by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). The data revealed that the settling and removal of the FeNPs after the treatment of the waters was related to the sample characteristics and the ways of dispersing the NPs. When mixing was used for the dispersion, the nano zero-valent iron (nZVI), FeONPs and Fe3O4NPs settled quickly in the Milli-Q water, the forest spring water and the landfill leachate. Dispersion with tertramethylammonium hydroxide (TMAH) resulted in a slower settling of the iron aggregates. In the Milli-Q and forest spring waters treated with FeONPs and dispersed by TMAH, the nanosized iron remained in solution as long as 24 h after the treatment and could represent a potential threat in environmental waters with a low ionic strength. The removal of the metals strongly depended on the type of FeNPs, the chemical speciation of the elements and the sample matrix. If the FeNPs are contaminated by a particular metal, this contaminant could be, during the NPs treatment, released into the water that is being remediated.