Sulfidation mechanism for zinc oxide nanoparticles and the effect of sulfidation on their solubility.Environ Sci Technol. 2013 Mar 19; 47(6):2527-34.ES
Environmental transformations of nanoparticles (NPs) affect their properties and toxicity potential. Sulfidation is an important transformation process affecting the fate of NPs containing metal cations with an affinity for sulfide. Here, the extent and mechanism of sulfidation of ZnO NPs were investigated, and the properties of resulting products were carefully characterized. Synchrotron X-ray absorption spectroscopy and X-ray diffraction analysis reveal that transformation of ZnO to ZnS occurs readily at ambient temperature in the presence of inorganic sulfide. The extent of sulfidation depends on sulfide concentration, and close to 100% conversion can be obtained in 5 days given sufficient addition of sulfide. X-ray diffraction and transmission electron microscopy showed formation of primarily ZnS NPs smaller than 5 nm, indicating that sulfidation of ZnO NPs occurs by a dissolution and reprecipitation mechanism. The solubility of partially sulfidized ZnO NPs is controlled by the remaining ZnO core and not quenched by a ZnS shell formed as was observed for partially sulfidized Ag NPs. Sulfidation also led to NP aggregation and a decrease of surface charge. These changes suggest that sulfidation of ZnO NPs alters the behavior, fate, and toxicity of ZnO NPs in the environment. The reactivity and fate of the resulting <5 nm ZnS particles remains to be determined.