Transport of silver nanoparticles by runoff and erosion – A flume experiment

Mahdi, Karrar N.M.; Commelin, Meindert; Peters, Ruud J.B.; Baartman, Jantiene E.M.; Ritsema, Coen; Geissen, Violette


Silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) are being used in many products as they have unique antimicrobial-biocidal properties. After disposal of these products AgNPs can reach the soil environment possibly affecting soil organisms and disrupting plants. This work aimed to study the transport of AgNPs by water and sediment during overland flow and soil erosion. This was done in a laboratory setting, using a flume and rainfall simulator. A low concentration of AgNPs (50 μg·kg− 1) was applied to two soil-flumes with slope percentages of 20% and 10%. The rainfall was applied in four events of 15 min each with a total amount of rainfall of 15 mm during each event. After applying the rainfall, samples of the non-transported background soil (BS) and the transported sediment (Sf) were collected from the flume surface. Runoff sediment (RS) and water (RW) were collected from the outlet. AgNPs were detected in all samples collected. However, concentration varied according to sample type (soil or water), time of collection (for runoff water and sediment) and the slope of the soil flume. Higher concentrations of AgNPs in soil were detected in the BS than in the Sf likely due to the BS having more fine particles (silt and clay). The AgNPs concentration in the runoff sediments increased with subsequent applied rain events. In addition, increasing the slope of the flume from 10% to 20% increased the total AgNPs transported with the runoff sediment by a factor 1.5. The study confirms that AgNPs can be transported by both overland flow and sediment due to erosion.