Environmental Geochemistry and Health

, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 1–10 | Cite as

Size fractionation and characterization of nanocolloidal particles in soils

  • Zhiyun Tang
  • Longhua Wu
  • Yongming Luo
  • Peter Christie
Original Paper


A protocol was developed to fractionate soil particles down to the nanocolloid scale by combining sieving, sedimentation, centrifugation, and cross-flow filtration (CFF). The validity of the method and the performance of the CFF system were tested by characterizing fractions using laser granulometry, electron microscopy, and chemical analysis. The 0.1-μm-pore-size membrane CFF system effectively retained nanocolloids (<0.1 μm) as shown by laser granulometry and observed directly by transmission electron microscopy. However, environmental scanning electron microscopy images of freeze-dried colloids were very different from their TEM counterparts, suggesting that sample preparation influenced microscopy imaging. Chemical analysis of Cu, Cd, and organic carbon in each fraction showed that the concentrations of these components increased as particle size decreased, indicating colloids and nanocolloids play an important role in retaining trace metals. Particle-size fractionation combined with chemical analysis and electron microscopy can provide insight into the nature and properties of nanocolloids in soil.


Soil particles Nanocolloids Cross-flow filtration Fractionation Laser granulometry Electron microscopy 



We thank the National Natural Science Foundation of China (project 20477048) and the Major State Basic Research and Development Program of the People’s Republic of China (project 2005CB121104) for financial support.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zhiyun Tang
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Longhua Wu
    • 1
  • Yongming Luo
    • 1
  • Peter Christie
    • 4
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Soil Environment and Pollution Remediation, State Key Laboratory of Soil and Sustainable Agriculture, Institute of Soil ScienceChinese Academy of SciencesNanjingChina
  2. 2.Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Geological Survey of Jiangsu ProvinceNanjingChina
  4. 4.Agricultural and Environmental Science DepartmentQueen’s University BelfastBelfastUK

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