An increasing amount of TiO2
engineered nanoparticles (TNP) is released into soils and sediments, increasing the need for dedicated detection methods. Titanium is naturally present in soils at concentrations typically much higher than the estimated concentrations for TNP. Therefore, a precise knowledge of this natural background, including the colloidal fraction, is required for developing adapted strategies for detecting TNP. In this study, we characterized the natural colloidal Ti-background by analyzing eight soils with different properties and origins. A combination of X-ray fluorescence analysis and ICP-OES was used for determining the silicate bound fraction, which was a minor fraction for all soils (0–32%). The colloidal fraction obtained by extracting colloids from soil prior to ICP-OES measurements ranged between 0.3% and 7%. Electron microscopy and hydrodynamic chromatography confirmed that Ti in the form of colloids or larger particles was mostly present as TiO2
minerals with a fraction smaller than 100 nm. The size distribution mode of the extracted colloids determined using hydrodynamic chromatography ranged between 80 and 120 nm. The chromatograms suggested a broad size distribution with a significant portion below 100 nm. In addition to these data, we also discuss possible implications of our findings for the method development for detecting TNP in soils.
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