Indexed on: 14 Mar '16Published on: 05 Mar '16Published in: Science of the Total Environment
Silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) because of their strong antibacterial activity are widely used in health-care sector and industrial applications. Their huge surface-volume ratio enhances the silver release compared to the bulk material, leading to an increased toxicity for microorganisms sensitive to this element. This work presents an assessment of the toxic effect on algal photosynthesis due to small (size < 20 nm) AgNPs embedded in silica layers. Two physical approaches were originally used to elaborate the nanocomposite structures: (i) low energy ion beam synthesis and (ii) combined silver sputtering and plasma polymerization. These techniques allow elaboration of a single layer of AgNPs embedded in silica films at defined nanometer distances (from 0 to 7 nm) beneath the free surface. The structural and optical properties of the nanostructures were studied by transmission electron microscopy and optical reflectance. The silver release from the nanostructures after 20 h of immersion in buffered water was measured by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry and ranges between 0.02 and 0.49 μM. The short-term toxicity of Ag to photosynthesis of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii was assessed by fluorometry. The obtained results show that embedding AgNPs reduces the interactions with the buffered water free media, protecting the AgNPs from fast oxidation. The release of bio-available silver (impacting on the algal photosynthesis) is controlled by the depth at which AgNPs are located for a given host matrix. This provides a procedure to tailor the toxicity of nanocomposites containing AgNPs.