• silver nanoparticles;
  • environmental interfaces;
  • corrosion processes;
  • thin films

Characterizing interfacial reactions is a crucial part of understanding the behavior of nanoparticles in nature and for unlocking their functional potential. Here, an advanced nanostructure characterization approach to study the corrosion processes of silver nanoparticles (Ag-Nps), currently the most highly produced nanoparticle for nanotechnology, is presented. Corrosion of Ag-Nps under aqueous conditions, in particular in the presence of organic matter and halide species common to many natural environments, is of particular importance because the release of toxic Ag+ from oxidation/dissolution of Ag-Nps may strongly impact ecosystems. In this context, Ag-Nps capped with polyvinolpyrrolidone (PVP) in contact with a simple proxy of organic matter in natural waters [polyacrylic acid (PAA) and Cl in solution] has been investigated. A combination of synchrotron-based X-ray standing-wave fluorescence yield- and X-ray diffraction-based experiments on a sample consisting of an approximately single-particle layer of Ag-Nps deposited on a silicon substrate and coated by a thin film of PAA containing Cl revealed the formation of a stable AgCl corrosion product despite the presence of potential surface stabilizers (PVP and PAA). Diffusion and precipitation processes at the Ag-Nps–PAA interface were characterized with a high spatial resolution using this new approach.