Implications and potential applications of bactericidal
fullerene water suspensions: effect of nC60concentration,
exposure conditions and shelf life
D. Y. Lyon, D. A. Brown and P. J. J. Alvarez
D. Y. Lyon
D. A. Brown
P. J. J. Alvarez
Department of Civil and Environmental
Houston, TX 77005,
Stable fullerene water suspensions (nC60) exhibited potent antibacterial activity to physiologically
different bacteria in low-salts media over a wide range of exposure conditions. Antibacterial activity
was observed in the presence or absence of light or oxygen, and increased with both exposure time
and dose. The activity was also influenced by the nC60storage conditions and by the age of the
buckminsterfullerene (C60) used to make nC60. These results reflect the potential impact of nC60on
the health of aquatic ecosystems and suggest novel alternatives for disinfection and microbial control.
Key words | bacteria, fullerenes, nanomaterial, nC60
With the current nanotechnology boom, technologies incor-
porating nano-scale processes and materials are being
explored for the reduction of waste production, remediation
of contaminant spills, water treatment, and improved energy
production and usage. For example, some metal and metal-
oxide nanoparticles (e.g. nanoiron, magnetite, and titanium
contaminants for in situ groundwater remediation (Liu et al.
1995; McCormick & Adriaens 2004; Mattigod et al. 2005),
wastewater treatment (Ferguson et al. 2005; Lee et al. 2005),
and drinking water treatment (Rincon & Pulgarin 2004) (Wei
potential for adverse consequences due to the lack of risk
assessment and regulation of nanomaterials. An increased
is necessary to ensure their safe use and disposal, therefore
enhancing the sustainability of the field.
As carbon-based nanomaterials, such as buckminster-
fullerene (C60), become increasingly available and affordable,
they will potentially find widespread use in products such as
cosmetics, drug delivery vectors, and semiconductors. During
the production, consumption, and disposal of these products,
the environmental behavior of these materials becomes
relevant, specifically in aqueous based systems. While pristine
through the formation of water-soluble derivatives, encapsu-
lation by hydrophilic molecules, or the formation of stable,
nanoscale water-soluble aggregates (termed here as nC60).
original source location thus increasing the media volume
exposed and in the number of biological receptors. Previous
research establishing the antimicrobial activity of nC60
indicated that several factors influence its toxicity, such as
(Lyon et al. 2005, 2006; Li et al. 2008). Specifically, smaller
particles (with larger surface area per volume) are more toxic,
soil organic matter promotes sorption that reduces bioavaila-
bility and toxicity, and higher ionic strength mitigates toxicity
by promoting coagulation and precipitation.
This work evaluates additional factors that influence the
antibacterial activity of nC60to further evaluate potential
Factors considered include nC60 concentration and time
of exposure, bacterial growth conditions, the age of the
fullerene and nC60used, and the bacterial species tested.
Q IWA Publishing 2008 Water Science & Technology—WST | 57.10 | 2008
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D. Y. Lyon et al. | nC60implications and applications
Water Science & Technology—WST | 57.10 | 2008