Photochemical interactions between n-Ag 2 S and n-TiO 2 amplify their bacterial stress response

Carolyn M. Wilke, Claire Petersen, Marco A. Alsina, Jean François Gaillard*, Kimberly A. Gray

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Under the reducing conditions of wetlands and anaerobic wastewater treatment processes, nanosilver (n-Ag) released from consumer products reacts with sulfide to form Ag 2 S, which is believed to be stable and practically benign. However, in the natural environment, these nanosized silver sulfide particles (n-Ag 2 S) may interact with light and other nanomaterials to create oxidizing conditions that may destabilize n-Ag 2 S, releasing Ag + and causing stress to microorganisms. We investigate this scenario by monitoring the ATP levels of E. coli exposed to mixtures of n-Ag 2 S and n-TiO 2 , another nanomaterial with high likelihood of environmental release. Under dark conditions, we find that sulfidation increases the threshold concentration for microbial stress relative to n-Ag. Under simulated solar irradiation (SSI), exposure to n-Ag 2 S alone does not depress bacterial ATP levels in the concentration range tested (≤1 mg L −1 as Ag). However in the presence of 1 mg L −1 n-TiO 2 and under SSI, n-Ag 2 S causes synergistic toxic stress and enhances the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Based on the photochemistry of these nanomaterials and our measurements of dissolved Ag, we propose that under environmental conditions the ROS produced by n-TiO 2 dissolves n-Ag 2 S, releasing Ag + that can then be photoreduced on the surface of n-TiO 2 to form a highly photoactive and phototoxic nanocomposite. This work reveals that under oxidizing conditions n-Ag 2 S is prone to transformations that cause microbial stress. Overall, we provide further evidence that chemical interactions between multiple nanomaterials under irradiation can dramatically change their toxic effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)115-126
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Science: Nano
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science (miscellaneous)
  • Environmental Science(all)


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