Utilizing Platforms for the Observation of Chemical Transformations to Surface-Bound Noble Metal Nanoparticles in Environmentally Relevant Conditions
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Nanoparticles are increasingly incorporated into consumer products because of their unique, size-dependent properties. Although these properties are commercially appealing, data are lacking regarding the fate and reactivity of nanoparticles once incorporated into materials. This information gap prevents accurate assessment of hazards that these materials potentially present to consumers and the environment. To address this concern, new research is needed to investigate the reactivity and transformations of nanoparticles. This dissertation describes the use of an electron transparent characterization platform to observe nanoparticle transformations. Nanoparticles were tethered to the surface of an analysis platform, exposed to a variety of conditions, and evaluated for reactivity and response. The characterization of silver nanoparticles revealed the generation of new daughter nanoparticles on surfaces in ambient humid conditions. Our observations showed that the transport of material is highly dependent on relative humidity and that pH equilibria drives the deposition of new particles and degradation. We discovered, by applying these findings to macro-silver objects, that bulk silver generates new nanoparticles on surfaces. This illuminated the possibility of other, yet undiscovered, naturally occurring nanoparticles. In the second model system, 1.5 nm gold nanoparticles were tethered by a robust metal oxide bond from the terminal group of the stabilizing ligand. This strategy facilitated precise control over thiol ligand removal using a dilute ozone oxidation. Tracking particle oxidation over time allowed us to gain unprecedented control over core exposure, size maintenance, and surface tethering. This platform was also utilized as a proof-of-concept for direct observation of transformations in complex media. Ligand and core transformations were monitored in a variety of biologically relevant conditions using tethered nanoparticles. Morphological and chemical transformations were characterized and correlated to results from solution monitoring. The use of a platform based approach to evaluating the reactivity of nanoparticles in the environment holds promise for evaluations of nanoparticles and their transformation products. The demonstration of monitoring reactivity in systems equilibria, carefully controlled transformations, or complex media shows the versatility of this strategy. Only through the use of this analysis platform was the direct observation of nanoparticle transformations possible. This dissertation includes previously published, unpublished, and co-authored materials.