Effects of material morphology on the phototoxicity of nano-TiO2 to bacteria

Tiezheng Tong, Anas Shereef, Jinsong Wu, Chu Thi Thanh Binh, John J. Kelly, Jean François Gaillard*, Kimberly A. Gray

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

133 Scopus citations


Nanostructured titania (nano-TiO2) is produced in diverse shapes, but it remains largely unknown how tuning the morphology of nano-TiO2 may alter its toxicity. Herein, we show that material morphology plays a critical role in regulating the phototoxicity of nano-TiO2 to bacteria. Low-dimensional nano-TiO2, including nanotubes, nanorods, and nanosheets, were synthesized hydrothermally, and their effects on the bacterial viability of Escherichia coli and Aeromonas hydrophila were compared to spherical nanostructures (anatase nanospheres and P25). Results reveal that TiO2 nanotubes and nanosheets are less phototoxic than their rod- and sphere-shape counterparts under simulated solar irradiation. None of the tested nano-TiO2 shows toxicity in the dark. In contrast to their diminished phototoxicity, however, TiO2 nanotubes and nanosheets exhibit comparable or even higher photoactivity than other nanostructures. Observations by scanning transmission electron microscopy suggest that material morphology influences nano-TiO2 phototoxicity by governing how nano-TiO2 particles align at the bacterial cell surface. Overall, when comparing materials with different morphologies and dimensionality, nano-TiO2 phototoxicity is not a simple function of photocatalytic reactivity or ROS production. Instead, we propose that the evaluation of nano-TiO2 phototoxicity encompasses a three-pronged approach, involving the intrinsic photoactivity, aggregation of nano-TiO 2, and the nano-TiO2/bacteria surface interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12486-12495
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 5 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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