Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Wang, Lichang


Despite the growing applications of silver nanoparticles, toxicity information on this nanomaterial is still deficient. Conclusions on the toxicity of silver nanoparticles vary and atomic level toxicity mechanisms are not yet achieved. Consequently, our group conducted combined computational and experimental toxicity studies of silver nanoparticles (AgNPs). Toxicity of 10 nm citrate stabilized AgNPs on HepG2 cells were investigated. Experimental results show that the 10 nm citrate stabilized AgNPs begin to be toxic to HepG2 cells at a dosage that exceeds 1 ppm and LD50 was observed at 3 ppm. Elevated reactive oxygen species levels were seen upon exposure to AgNPs with the maximum at the LD50 concentration of 3 ppm. Normal protein regulation of HepG2 cells were affected by exposure to AgNPs. TEM images of HepG2 cells exposed to AgNPs reveal that AgNPs can penetrate and agglomerate inside the cells. Our preliminary computational study was guided by one of the widely accepted toxicity mechanism of AgNPs in which the nanoparticles dissolute to Ag+. The computational model was composed of a 1:1 ratio of silver and phospholipid head. The silver employed are in atomic and anionic form while the phospholipid head are the phosphocholine (PC) and phosphoethanolamine (PE), which are abundant in HepG2 cells. Computational study shows that the presence of Ag+ results in partial oxidation of both the phospholipid heads. Our preliminary experimental and computational studies lead us to develop new computational methods that can accurately predict oxidation potentials (HOMO), reduction potentials (LUMO), and absorption spectra that can be used in studying toxicity mechanism of AgNPs through the oxidation pathway. Thus, computational methods for cyclic voltammetry and absorption spectroscopy that use DFT and TD-DFT, respectively, were improved to provide more accurate electronic and optical properties. Cyclopenta-fused polycyclic hydrocarbons (CP-PAHs) with available experimental data for HOMO, LUMO, ΔEgap and absorption spectra and have potential application as AgNP stabilizers were used in developing the improved computational methods for cyclic voltammetry and absorption spectroscopy. The improved computational method for cyclic voltammetry was developed by accounting for the anion species that occur experimentally and by using B3LYP the best density functional in predicting the HOMO, LUMO and ΔEgap of CP-PAHs with overall MAE of 014 eV. The best absorption spectra otef CP-PAHs were predicted using B3LYP for geometry optimizations followed by TD-CAMB3LYP with MAE of 29 nm. All calculations of CP-PAHs were implemented using the 6-311g (d,p) basis set and tetrahydrofuran (THF) as solvent. These two developed computational methods were tested on a group of methyl triphenyl amine (MTPA) derivatives with available experimental data for HOMO, LUMO, ΔEgap and absorption spectra and have potential application as AgNP stabilizers. The new computational methods for cyclic voltammetry and absorption spectroscopy also provided the most accurate predicted electronic and optical properties of MTPA derivatives. Among the ten density functionals employed, prediction of HOMO, LUMO and ΔEgap were most accurate using B3LYP and B3PW91 with overall MAE of 0.31 eV and 0.27 eV, respectively. Absorption spectra of MTPA derivatives were still best predicted using the B3LYP/TD-CAMB3LYP method with MAE of 13 nm. All calculations of MTPA were implemented using the 6-31+g (d,p) basis set and dichloromethane as solvent.




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