Engineering Silver Nanoparticles: Towards a Tunable Antimicrobial
Puppala, Hema Lakshmi
Colvin, Vicki L.
Doctor of Philosophy
Overwhelming production of commercially available products containing silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) underscores the studies determining their fate in the environment. In order to regulate the use, assess the environmental impact and develop eco-responsible silver products, models that can predict AgNP toxicity based on physicochemical properties are vital. With that vision, this thesis developed well-characterized model libraries of uniform AgNPs stabilized with oleate in the range of 2-45 nm diameter with variable surface coating and investigated the dissolution properties that link AgNP structure to antimicrobial activity. High temperature organic synthesis allowed controlled growth of AgNPs (σ<15%) by an Ostwald ripening mechanism in the first few hours, and followed by size dependent growth rates yielding uniform nanocrystals. Characterization of these materials revealed a crystalline nature, bidentate binding mode of oleate and non-oxidized pristine silver surface. Phase transfer of these AgNPs from organics to water was facilitated by encapsulation and ligand exchange methods using amphiphilic polymers and methoxy poly (ethylene glycol) (mPEGSH) respectively. Among these surface coatings, steric stabilization by mPEGSH not only helped retain their optical properties but also reduced the dissolution (<1(w/w)%) of AgNPs. This enhanced the stability in various environmentally relevant high ionic strength media (such as Hoaglands, EPA hard water and OECD medium), thereby increasing the shelf life. In addition, size, surface coating, pH of the medium and grafting density of the polymer mediated the dissolution of AgNPs. For instance, the rate of dissolution was decreased by 40% when the polymer coating possessed a mushroom conformation and increased with reducing core size. Analogous to dissolution, physicochemical properties also influenced the antimicrobial activity which were studied by minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) and bactericidal efficacy assays. For example, surface passivation with mPEGSH prevented the oxidation of active silver atoms on the surface, and resulted in reduced toxicity against E. coli. Moreover citrate stabilized AgNPs when surface modified with mPEGSH had reduced toxicity, which was correlated with residual Ag+ in AgNP solution. Therefore this study demonstrates that processes in the environment that increase stability of AgNPs could make them more persistent due to low dissolution. Furthermore, the size and surface chemistry effects of AgNPs studied here make the intrinsic antimicrobial property of silver tunable and hence more versatile. This work also served as a material support for research on investigating toxicity of AgNPs to C. elegans, Daphnia Magna, Populus and Arabidopsis. In the future, this data will be used to develop nanomaterial bioavailability & environmental exposure (nanoBEE) models that predict the environmental impact of AgNPs.
Silver nanoparticles; Dissolution; Antimicrobial; Aggregation