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  1. Nanoparticles (NPs) are increasingly being used in medical, electronic, energy, and agricultural applications due to their unique properties that often arise due to the high surface area-to-volume ratio. However, this characteristic along with the high reactivity of NPs make these materials highly dynamic in environmental settings. Thus, several transformations can take place when these materials enter the environment that determines their transport, toxicity, and fate of them in our environment. These transformations, and more specifically oxidative dissolution and sulfidation, are directly impacted by the characteristics that a NP has in addition to the surrounding environmental conditions. Therefore, this review aims to summarize how NP characteristics (size, coatings, etc.) and other important environmentally relevant conditions (oxic/anoxic waters, natural organic matter, etc.) impact the oxidative dissolution and sulfidation of several metal and metal oxide NPs. The impact of these factors is crucial to understanding and predicting the environmental risks of these materials in a wide range of applications. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 26, 2025
  2. pH-responsive polymeric nanoparticles are an exciting class of stimuli-responsive materials that can respond to changes in pH and, as a result, have been developed for numerous applications in biomedicine, such as the loading and delivery of various cargoes. One common transformation is nanoparticle swelling due to the protonation or deprotonation of specific side chain moieties in the polymer structure. When the pH trigger is removed, the swelling can be reversed, and this process can be continually cycled by adjusting the pH. In this work, we are leveraging this swelling–deswelling–reswelling mechanism to develop a simple, fast, and easy loading strategy for a class of cross-linked polymeric nanoparticles, poly-2-(diethylamino) ethyl methacrylate (pDEAEMA), that can reversibly swell below pH 7.3, and a dye, rhodamine B isothiocyanate (RITC), as a proof-of-concept cargo molecule while comparing to poly(methyl methacrylate) (pMMA) nanoparticles as a nonswelling control. A free radical polymerization was used to generate pDEAEMA nanoparticles at three different sizes by varying the synthesis temperature. Their pH-dependent swelling and deswelling were extensively characterized using dynamic light scattering and transmission electron microscopy, which revealed a reversible increase in size for pDEAEMA nanoparticles in acidic media, whereas pMMA nanoparticles remain constant. Following dye loading, pDEAEMA nanoparticles show significant fluorescence intensity when compared to pMMA nanoparticles, suggesting that the reversible swelling is key for successful loading. Upon acidic treatment, there is a significant decrease in the fluorescence intensity when compared to the dye-loaded nanoparticles in basic media, which could be due to dilution of the dye when released in the acidic medium solution. Interestingly, nanoparticle size had no impact on dye loading properties, suggesting that the dye molecules only go so far into the polymer nanoparticle. Additionally, confocal microscopy images reveal pDEAEMA nanoparticles with higher RITC fluorescence intensity in acidic media but a lower RITC fluorescence intensity in basic media, while pMMA nanoparticles show no differences. Together, these results showcase a size reversibility-driven cargo loading mechanism that has the potential to be applied to other beneficial cargoes and for various applications. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 6, 2025
  3. There is a need to develop new and sustainable agricultural technologies to help provide global food security, and nanoscale materials show promising results in this area. In this study, mesoporous silica nanoparticles (MSNs) and chitosan-coated mesoporous silica nanoparticles (CTS-MSNs) were synthesized and applied to soybeans (Glycine max) by two different strategies in greenhouse and field studies to study the role of dissolved silicic acid and chitosan in enhancing plant growth and suppressing disease damage caused by Fusarium virguliforme. Plant growth and health were assessed by measuring the soybean biomass and chlorophyll content in both healthy and Fusarium-infected plants at harvest. In the greenhouse study, foliar and seed applications with 250 mg/L nanoparticle treatments were compared. A single seed treatment of MSNs reduced disease severity by 30% and increased chlorophyll content in both healthy and infected plants by 12%. Based on greenhouse results, seed application was used in the follow-up field study and MSNs and CTS-MSNs reduced disease progression by 12 and 15%, respectively. A significant 32% increase was observed for chlorophyll content for plants treated with CTS-MSNs. Perhaps most importantly, nanoscale silica seed treatment significantly increased (23–68%) the micronutrient (Zn, Mn, Mg, K, B) content of soybean pods, suggesting a potential sustainable strategy for nano-enabled biofortification to address nutrition insecurity. Overall, these findings indicate that MSN and CTS-MSN seed treatments in soybeans enable disease suppression and increase plant health as part of a nano-enabled strategy for sustainable agriculture. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 6, 2025
  4. Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 1, 2024
  5. Semiconductor InSe 2D nanomaterials have emerged as potential photoresponsive materials for broadly distributed photodetectors and wearable electronics technologies due to their high photoresponsivity and thermal stability. This paper addresses an environmental concern about the fate of InSe 2D nanosheets when disposed and released into the environment after use. Semiconducting materials are potentially reactive and often form environmentally damaging species, for example reactive oxygen and nitrogen species, when degraded. InSe nanosheets are prepared using a semi bottom-up approach which involves a reaction between indium and selenium precursors at elevated temperature in an oxygen-free environment to prevent oxidation. InSe nanosheets are formed as a stable intermediate with micrometer-sized lateral dimensions and a few monolayer thickness. The InSe 2D nanosheets are obtained when the reaction is stopped after 30 minutes by cooling. Keeping the reaction at elevated temperature for a longer period, for example 60 minutes leads to the formation of InSe 3D nanoparticles of about 5 nm in diameter, a thermodynamically more stable form of InSe. The paper focuses on the colloidal stabilization of InSe nanosheets in an aqueous solution that contains epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a natural organic matter (NOM) simulant. We show that EGCG coats the surface of the hydrophobic, water-insoluble InSe nanosheets via physisorption. The formed EGCG-coated InSe nanosheets are colloidally stable in aqueous solution. While unmodified semiconducting InSe nanosheets could produce reactive oxygen species (ROS) when illuminated, our study shows low levels of ROS generation by EGCG-coated InSe nanosheets under ambient light, which might be attributed to ROS quenching by EGCG. Growth-based viability (GBV) assays show that the colloidally stable EGCG-coated InSe nanosheets adversely impact the bacterial growth of Shewanella oneidensis MR-1, an environmentally relevant Gram-negative bacterium in aqueous media. The impact on bacterial growth is driven by the EGCG coating of the nanosheets. In addition, live/dead assays show insignificant membrane damage of the Shewanella oneidensis MR-1 cells by InSe nanosheets, suggesting a weak association of EGCG-coated nanosheets with the cells. It is likely that the adverse impact of EGCG-coated nanosheets on bacterial growth is the result of increasing local concentration of EGCG either when adsorbed on the nanosheets when the nanosheets interact with the cells, or when desorbed from the EGCG-coated nanosheets to interact with the bacterial cells. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 31, 2024
  6. Developing a materials perspective of how to control the degradation and negative impact of complex metal oxides requires an integrated understanding of how these nanomaterials transform in the environment and interact with biological systems. Doping with aluminum is known to stabilize oxide materials, but has not been assessed cohesively from synthesis to environmental fate and biological impact. In the present study, the influence of aluminum doping on metal ion release from transition metal oxides was investigated by comparing aqueous transformations of lithium nickel cobalt aluminum oxide (LiNi0.82Co0.15Al0.03O2; NCA) and lithium nickel cobalt oxide (LiNi0.80Co0.20O2; NC) nanoparticles and by calculating the energetics of metal release using a density functional theory (DFT) and thermodynamics method. Two model environmental organisms were used to assess biological impact, and metal ion release was compared for NCA and NC nanoparticles incubated in their respective growth media: moderately hard reconstituted water (MHRW) for the freshwater invertebrate Daphnia magna (D. magna) and minimal growth medium for the Gram-negative bacterium Shewanella oneidensis MR-1 (S. oneidensis). The amount of metal ions released was reduced for NCA compared to NC in MHRW, which correlated to changes in the modeled energetics of release upon Al substitution in the lattice. In minimal medium, metal ion release was approximately an order of magnitude higher compared to MHRW and was similar to the stoichiometry of the bulk nanoparticles for both NCA and NC. Interpretation of the release profiles and modeling indicated that the increase in total metal ion release and the reduced influence of Al doping arises from lactate complexation of metal ions in solution. The relative biological impacts of NC and NCA exposure for both S. oneidensis and D. magna were consistent with the metal release trends observed for minimal medium and MHRW, respectively. Together, these results demonstrate how a combined experimental and computational approach provides valuable insight into the aqueous transformations and biological impacts of complex metal oxide nanoparticles. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2025
  7. Abstract Although silicon-based nanomaterials (Si-based NMs) can promote crop yield and alleviate biotic and abiotic stress, the underlying performance mechanisms are unknown. In the present study, the effect of the root application of Si-based NMs on the physiological responses of cherry radish (Raphanus sativus L.) was evaluated in a life cycle experiment. Root exposure to 0.1% (w/w) Si-based NMs significantly increased total fresh weight, total chlorophyll and carotenoids by 36.0%, 14.2% and 18.7%, respectively, relative to untreated controls. The nutritional content of the edible tissue was significantly enhanced, with an increase of 23.7% in reducing sugar, 24.8% in total sugar, and 232.7% in proteins; in addition, a number of nutritional elements (Cu, Mn, Fe, Zn, K, Ca, and P) were increased. Si-based NMs exposure positively altered the phytohormone network and decreased abscisic acid content, both of which promoted radish fresh weight. LC-MS-based metabolomic analysis shows that Si-based NMs increased the contents of most carbohydrates (e.g., α-D-glucose, acetylgalactosamine, lactose, fructose, etc.) and amino acids (e.g., asparagine, glutamic acid, glutamine, valine, arginine, etc.), subsequently improving overall nutritional values. Overall, nanoscale Si-based agrochemicals have significant potential as a novel strategy for the biofortification of vegetable crops in sustainable nano-enabled agriculture. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 1, 2024
  8. The addition of biochars and nanoparticles with adsorbed Azotobacter vinelandii and Bacillus megaterium alleviated damage from Fusarium infection in both tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) and watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) plants. Tomato and watermelon plants were grown in greenhouse for 28 and 30 days (respectively) and were treated with either nanoparticles (chitosan-coated mesoporous silica or nanoclay) or varying biochars (biochar produced by pyrolysis, gasification and pyrogasification). Treatments with nanoparticles and biochars were applied in two variants – with or without adsorbed plant-growth promoting bacteria (PGPR). Chitosan-coated mesoporous silica nanoparticles with adsorbed bacteria increased chlorophyll content in infected tomato and watermelon plants (1.12 times and 1.63 times, respectively) to a greater extent than nanoclay with adsorbed bacteria (1.10 times and 1.38 times, respectively). However, the impact on other endpoints (viability of plant cells, phosphorus and nitrogen content, as well antioxidative status) was species-specific. In all cases, plants treated with adsorbed bacteria responded better than plants without bacteria. For example, the content of antioxidative compounds in diseased watermelon plants increased nearly 46% upon addition of Aries biochar and by approximately 52% upon addition of Aries biochar with adsorbed bacteria. The overall effect on disease suppression was due to combination of the antifungal effects of both nanoparticles (and biochars) and plant-growth promoting bacteria. These findings suggest that nanoparticles or biochars with adsorbed PGPR could be viewed as a novel and sustainable solution for management of Fusarium wilt. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 1, 2024
  9. Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 24, 2024