In Situ Tracking of Crystal-Surface-Dependent Cu2O Nanoparticle Dissolution in an Aqueous Environment

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1006-1016
Journal / PublicationEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number2
Online published4 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jan 2023


Metal-oxide-based nanoparticles (MONPs) such as Cu2O NPs have attracted growing attention, but the potential discharges of MONPs have raised considerable concern of their environmental fate including their dissolution behavior. The impacts of morphology on MONP dissolution are largely uncertain due to the lack of in situ tracking techniques. In this study, we combined a series of in situ technologies including liquid-cell transmission electron microscopy and fluorescence probes to reveal the in situ dissolution process of Cu2O NPs in freshwater. Our results suggest that cubic Cu2O NPs exhibit a higher dissolution quantity compared with spherical NPs of the same surface area. The difference was mainly related to the crystal surface, while other factors such as particle size or aggregation status showed minor effects. Importantly, we demonstrated the simultaneous growth of new small NPs and the dissolution of pristine Cu2O NPs during the dissolution of Cu2O NPs. Cubic Cu2O NPs became much less soluble under O2-limited conditions, suggesting that O2 concentration largely affected the dependence of dissolution on the NP morphology. Our findings highlight the potential application of in situ techniques to track the environmental fates of MONPs, which would provide important information for assessing the ecological risks of engineered NPs.

Research Area(s)

  • cuprous oxide, in situ technique, liquid-cell transmission electron microscopy, morphology, nanoparticle dissolution