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To understand their fate and transport in estuarine systems, the aggregation, sedimentation, and dissolution of CdSe quantum dots (QDs) in seawater were investigated. Hydrodynamic size increased from 40 to 60 nm to >1 mm within 1 h in seawater, and the aggregates were highly polydispersed. Their sedimentation rates in seawater were measured to be 4-10 mm/day. Humic acid (HA), further increased their size and polydispersity, and slowed sedimentation. Light increased their dissolution and release of dissolved Cd. The ZnS shell also slowed release of Cd ions. With sufficient light, HA increased the dissolution of QDs, while with low light, HA alone did not change their dissolution. The benthic zone in estuarine systems is the most probable long-term destination of QDs due to aggregation and sedimentation. The bioavailability of was evaluated using the mysid Americamysis bahia. The 7-day LC50s of particulate and dissolved QDs were 290 and 23 μg (total Cd)/L, respectively. For mysids, the acute toxicity appears to be from Cd ions; however, research on the effects of QDs should be conducted with other organisms where QDs may be lodged in critical tissues such as gills or filtering apparatus and Cd ions may be released and delivered directly to those tissues.

Citation

Yao Xiao, Kay T Ho, Robert M Burgess, Michaela Cashman. Aggregation, Sedimentation, Dissolution, and Bioavailability of Quantum Dots in Estuarine Systems. Environmental science & technology. 2017 Feb 07;51(3):1357-1363

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PMID: 27951641

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