Environ Sci Technol 2019 May 30;53(10):5858-5867. Epub 2019 Apr 30.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency , Atlantic Ecology Division , 27 Tarzwell Dr. , Narragansett , Rhode Island 02882 , United States.
The possibility of graphene oxide (GO) exposure to the environment has spurred several studies investigating the fate of this nanoparticle (NP). However, there is currently little or no data on the fate of GO in estuarine and marine waters. This study investigated the aggregation, sedimentation, and transformation of GO in saline waters, considering the roles of salinity (0-50 ‰), light (visible light and solar irradiation), and aging, among others. The attachment efficiency of GO reached unity at 1.33 ‰. The sedimentation rate of GO increased with salinity up to 10 ‰ after which it decreased due to formation of ramified GO agglomerates and media density. On the basis of the sedimentation rate determined at 30 ‰ (0.121 m/d), the residence time of GO agglomerates in the euphotic zone of typical open oceans will exceed 500 days. Aging in the presence of visible light increased the relative abundance of the GO's aromatic (C-C/C=C) fraction, reducing the NP. Reduction of GO in visible light was confirmed via UV-vis and Raman spectroscopic techniques. Reduction of GO was faster under solar irradiation. This study demonstrates that when introduced into saline waters, GO will undergo a range of transformations affecting its fate and potential effects to aquatic organisms.