Top-Down Preparation of Nanoquartz for Toxicological Investigations


Occupational exposure to quartz dust is associated with fatal diseases. Quartz dusts generated by mechanical fracturing are characterized by a broad range of micrometric to nanometric particles. The contribution of this nanometric fraction to the overall toxicity of quartz is still largely unexplored, primarily because of the strong electrostatic adhesion forces that prevent isolation of the nanofraction. Furthermore, fractured silica dust exhibits special surface features, namely nearly free silanols (NFS), which impart a membranolytic activity to quartz. Nanoquartz can be synthetized via bottom-up methods, but the surface chemistry of such crystals strongly differs from that of nanoparticles resulting from fracturing. Here, we report a top-down milling procedure to obtain a nanometric quartz that shares the key surface properties relevant to toxicity with fractured quartz. The ball milling was optimized by coupling the dry and wet milling steps, using water as a dispersing agent, and varying the milling times and rotational speeds. Nanoquartz with a strong tendency to form submicrometric agglomerates was obtained. The deagglomeration with surfactants or simulated body fluids was negligible. Partial lattice amorphization and a bimodal crystallite domain size were observed. A moderate membranolytic activity, which correlated with the number of NFS, signaled coherence with the previous toxicological data. A membranolytic nanoquartz for toxicological investigations was obtained.

Authors: Chiara Bellomo, Cristina Pavan, Gianluca Fiore, Guillermo Escolano-Casado, Lorenzo Mino, Francesco Turci
; Full Source: International journal of molecular sciences 2022 Dec 6;23(23):15425. doi: 10.3390/ijms232315425.