Fate of fluorescent core-shell silica nanoparticles during simulated secondary wastewater treatment

Lila Otero-González, Jim A. Field, Isen A.C. Calderon, Craig A. Aspinwall, Farhang Shadman, Chao Zeng, Reyes Sierra-Alvarez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Increasing use of silica nanoparticles (SiO2 NPs) in consumer products and industrial processes leads to SiO2 NP discharge into wastewater. Thus, there is a need to understand the fate of SiO2 NPs during wastewater treatment. However, the detection of SiO2 NPs in environmental systems is hindered by the elevated background levels of natural silicon. In this work, laboratory-synthesized fluorescent core-shell SiO2 NPs were used to study the fate of these NPs during secondary wastewater treatment. Fluorescent measurements provided an easy and fast method for SiO2 NP tracking. A laboratory-scale activated sludge system consisting of an aeration tank and a settler was fed with synthetic wastewater containing ca. 7.5mgL-1 of fluorescent SiO2 NPs for 30 days. SiO2 NPs were effectively removed from the wastewater (>96%) during the first 6 days, however the concentration of SiO2 NPs in the effluent gradually increased afterwards and the NP discharge was as high as 65% of the input after 30 days of NP dosing. The poor removal of the SiO2 NPs was related to the high colloidal stability of the NPs in the wastewater and their limited propensity to biosorption. Although some degree of NP adsorption on the biomass was observed using fluorescence microscopy, the affinity of SiO2 NPs for the activated sludge was not enough for a sustained and effective removal of the SiO2 NPs from the wastewater.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)170-178
Number of pages9
JournalWater research
StatePublished - Jun 5 2015


  • Activated sludge
  • CMP
  • Engineered nanomaterials
  • Municipal wastewater treatment
  • Nanoparticle adsorption
  • SiO

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering


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