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Application of an asymmetric flow field flow fractionation multi-detector approach for metallic engineered nanoparticle characterization - Prospects and limitations demonstrated on Au nanoparticles

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

  • H. Hagendorfer
  • R. Kaegi
  • J. Traber
  • S.F. Mertens
  • R. Scherrers
  • C. Ludwig
  • A. Ulrich
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2011
<mark>Journal</mark>Analytica Chimica Acta
Issue number2
Number of pages12
Pages (from-to)367-378
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


In this work we discuss about the method development, applicability and limitations of an asymmetric flow field flow fractionation (A4F) system in combination with a multi-detector setup consisting of UV/vis, light scattering, and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICPMS). The overall aim was to obtain a size dependent-, element specific-, and quantitative method appropriate for the characterization of metallic engineered nanoparticle (ENP) dispersions. Thus, systematic investigations of crucial method parameters were performed by employing well characterized Au nanoparticles (Au-NPs) as a defined model system. For good separation performance, the A4F flow-, membrane-, and carrier conditions were optimized. To obtain reliable size information, the use of laser light scattering based detectors was evaluated, where an online dynamic light scattering (DLS) detector showed good results for the investigated Au-NP up to a size of 80 nm in hydrodynamic diameter. To adapt large sensitivity differences of the various detectors, as well as to guarantee long term stability and minimum contamination of the mass spectrometer a split-flow concept for coupling ICPMS was evaluated. To test for reliable quantification, the ICPMS signal response of ionic Au standards was compared to that of Au-NP. Using proper stabilization with surfactants, no difference for concentrations of 1-50 μg Au L-1 in the size range from 5 to 80 nm for citrate stabilized dispersions was observed. However, studies using different A4F channel membranes showed unspecific particle-membrane interaction resulting in retention time shifts and unspecific loss of nanoparticles, depending on the Au-NP system as well as membrane batch and type. Thus, reliable quantification and discrimination of ionic and particular species was performed using ICPMS in combination with ultracentrifugation instead of direct quantification with the A4F multi-detector setup. Figures of merit were obtained, by comparing the results from the multi detector approach outlined above, with results from batch-DLS and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Furthermore, validation performed with certified NIST Au-NP showed excellent agreement. The developed methods show potential for characterization of other commonly used and important metallic engineered nanoparticles. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.