Characterization and environmental implications of nano- and larger TiO2 particles in sewage sludge, and soils amended with sewage sludge

Bojeong Kim, Mitsuhiro Murayama, Benjamin P. Colman, Michael F. Hochella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

102 Scopus citations


Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is the most extensively used engineered nanoparticle to date, yet its fate in the soil environment has been investigated only rarely and is poorly understood. In the present study, we conducted two field-scale investigations to better describe TiO2 nano- and larger particles in their most likely route of entry into the environment, i.e., the application of biosolids to soils. We particularly concentrated on the particles in the nano-size regime due to their novel and commercially useful properties. First, we analyzed three sewage sludge products from the US EPA TNSSS sampling inventory for the occurrence, qualitative abundance, and nature of TiO 2 nano- and larger particles by using analytical scanning electron microscopy and analytical (scanning) transmission electron microscopy. Nano- and larger particles of TiO2 were repeatedly identified across the sewage sludge types tested, providing strong evidence of their likely concentration in sewage sludge products. The TiO2 particles identified were as small as 40 nm, and as large as 300 nm, having faceted shapes with the rutile crystal structure, and they typically formed small, loosely packed aggregates. Second, we examined surface soils in mesocosms that had been amended with Ag nanoparticle-spiked biosolids for the occurrence of TiO 2 particles. An aggregate of TiO2 nanoparticles with the rutile structure was again identified, but this time TiO2 nanoparticles were found to contain Ag on their surfaces. This suggests that TiO2 nanoparticles from biosolids can interact with toxic trace metals that would then enter the environment as a soil amendment. Therefore, the long-term behavior of TiO2 nano- and larger particles in sewage sludge materials as well as their impacts in the soil environment need to be carefully considered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1129-1137
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Environmental Monitoring
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2012


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