The physicochemical characterization of nanoparticles (NPs) is of paramount importance for tailoring and optimizing the properties of these materials as well as for evaluating the environmental fate and impact of the NPs. Characterizing the size and chemical identity of disperse NP sample populations can be accomplished by coupling size-based separation methods to physical and chemical detection methods. Informed decisions regarding the NPs can only be made, however, if the separations themselves are quantitative, i.e., if all or most of the analyte elutes from the column within the course of the experiment. We undertake here the size-exclusion chromatographic characterization of Au NPs spanning a six-fold range in mean size. The main problem which has plagued the size-exclusion chromatography (SEC) analysis of Au NPs, namely lack of quantitation accountability due to generally poor NP recovery from the columns, is overcome by carefully matching eluent formulation with the appropriate stationary phase chemistry, and by the use of on-line inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) detection. Here, for the first time, we demonstrate the quantitative analysis of Au NPs by SEC/ICP-MS, including the analysis of a ternary NP blend. The SEC separations are contrasted to HDC/ICP-MS (HDC: hydrodynamic chromatography) separations employing the same stationary phase chemistry. Additionally, analysis of Au NPs by HDC with on-line quasi-elastic light scattering (QELS) allowed for continuous determination of NP size across the chromatographic profiles, circumventing issues related to the shedding of fines from the SEC columns. The use of chemically homogeneous reference materials with well-defined size range allowed for better assessment of the accuracy and precision of the analyses, and for a more direct interpretation of results, than would be possible employing less rigorously characterized analytes. Published by Elsevier B.V.
Fields of Science
- 116 Chemical sciences