Diffusive gradient in thin-film (DGT) passive samplers are frequently used to monitor the concentrations of metals such as mercury and zinc in sediments and other aquatic environments. The application of these samplers generally presumes that they quantify only the dissolved fraction and not particle-bound metal species that are too large to migrate into the sampler. However, metals associated with very small nanoparticles (smaller than the pore size of DGT samplers) can be abundant in certain environments, yet the implications of these nanoparticles for DGT measurements are unclear. The objective of this study was to determine how the performance of the DGT sampler is affected by the presence of nanoparticulate species of Hg and Zn. DGT samplers were exposed to solutions containing known amounts of dissolved Hg(II) and nanoparticulate HgS (or dissolved Zn(II) and nanoparticulate ZnS). The amounts of Hg and Zn accumulated onto the DGT samplers were quantified over hours to days, and the rates of diffusion of the dissolved metal (i.e., the effective diffusion coefficient D) into the sampler's diffusion layer were calculated and compared for solutions containing varying concentrations of nanoparticles. The results suggested that the nanoparticles deposited on the surface of the samplers might have acted as sorbents, slowing the migration of the dissolved species into the samplers. The consequence was that the DGT sampler data underestimated the dissolved metal concentration in the solution. In addition, X-ray absorption spectroscopy was employed to determine the speciation of the Hg accumulated on the sampler binding layer, and the results indicated that HgS nanoparticles did not appear to directly contribute to the DGT measurement. Overall, our findings suggest that the deployment of DGT samplers in settings where nanoparticles are relevant (e.g., sediments) may result in DGT data that incorrectly estimated the dissolved metal concentrations. Models for metal uptake into the sampler may need to be reconsidered.

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Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.5b02774
Journal Environmental Science and Technology
Pham, A.L.T, Johnson, C. (Carol), Manley, D. (Devon), & Hsu-Kim, H. (Heileen). (2015). Influence of Sulfide Nanoparticles on Dissolved Mercury and Zinc Quantification by Diffusive Gradient in Thin-Film Passive Samplers. Environmental Science and Technology, 49(21), 12897–12903. doi:10.1021/acs.est.5b02774