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Green nanotechnology: a review on green synthesis of silver nanoparticles — an ecofriendly approach

Authors Ahmad S, Munir S, Zeb N, Ullah A, Khan B, Ali J, Bilal M, Omer M, Alamzeb M , Salman SM, Ali S 

Received 5 January 2019

Accepted for publication 26 March 2019

Published 10 July 2019 Volume 2019:14 Pages 5087—5107


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Thomas J Webster

Shabir Ahmad,1 Sidra Munir,1 Nadia Zeb1,2 Asad Ullah,1 Behramand Khan,1 Javed Ali,3 Muhammad Bilal,3 Muhammad Omer,4 Muhammad Alamzeb,5 Syed Muhammad Salman,1 Saqib Ali5

1Department of Chemistry, Islamia College University, Peshawar 25120, Pakistan; 2Department of Chemistry, Government Girls Degree College, Peshawar, Pakistan; 3Department of Chemistry, Kohat University of Science and Technology, Kohat, Pakistan; 4Institute of Chemical Sciences, University of Swat, Swat, 19201, Pakistan; 5Department of Chemistry, University of Kotli 11100, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan

Background: Nanotechnology explores a variety of promising approaches in the area of material sciences on a molecular level, and silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) are of leading interest in the present scenario. This review is a comprehensive contribution in the field of green synthesis, characterization, and biological activities of AgNPs using different biological sources.
Methods: Biosynthesis of AgNPs can be accomplished by physical, chemical, and green synthesis; however, synthesis via biological precursors has shown remarkable outcomes. In available reported data, these entities are used as reducing agents where the synthesized NPs are characterized by ultraviolet-visible and Fourier-transform infrared spectra and X-ray diffraction, scanning electron microscopy, and transmission electron microscopy.
Results: Modulation of metals to a nanoscale drastically changes their chemical, physical, and optical properties, and is exploited further via antibacterial, antifungal, anticancer, antioxidant, and cardioprotective activities. Results showed excellent growth inhibition of the microorganism.
Conclusion: Novel outcomes of green synthesis in the field of nanotechnology are appreciable where the synthesis and design of NPs have proven potential outcomes in diverse fields. The study of green synthesis can be extended to conduct the in silco and in vitro research to confirm these findings.

Keywords: green synthesis, plant mediated synthesis, silver bioactivity, microorganism



Nanotechnology offers fields with effective applications, ranging from traditional chemical techniques to medicinal and environmental technologies. AgNPs have emerged with leading contributions in diverse applications, such as drug delivery,31 ointments, nanomedicine,37 chemical sensing,41 data storage,47 cell biology,54 agriculture, cosmetics,60 textiles,17 the food industry, photocatalytic organic dye–degradation activity,64 antioxidants,66 and antimicrobial agents.68

Despite the contradictions reported on the toxicity of AgNPs,69 its role as a disinfectant and antimicrobial agent has been given considerable appreciation. The available documented data73,74 and the interest of the community in this field prompted us to work on plant-mediated green synthesis and biological activities of AgNPs.

Different types of nanoparticles

Some distinctive reported forms of nanoparticles (NPs) are core–shell NPs,76 photochromic polymer NPs,78 polymer-coated magnetite NPs,80 inorganic NPs, AgNPs, CuNPs,82 AuNPs,85 PtNPs,86 PdNPs,88 SiNPs,89 and NiNPs,91 while others are metal oxide and metal dioxide NPs, such as ZnONPs,94 CuO NPs,95 FeO,97 MgONPs,100 TiO2 NPs,102 CeO2 NPs,103 and ZrO2 NPs.104 Each of these has an exclusive set of characteristics and applications, and can be synthesized by either conventional or unconventional methods. An extensive classification of NPs is provided in Figure 1.105111

Figure 1 Different approaches to nanomaterial (NM) classification.Abbreviation: NPs, nanoparticles.

Nanoparticle synthesis

Comprehensive approaches available for NP synthesis are bottom-up and top-down.112 The latter approach is immoderate and steady, whereas the former involves self-assembly of atomicsize particles to grow nanosize particles. This can be achieved by physical and chemical means,113 as summarized in Table 1. However, ecofriendly green syntheses are economical, and proliferate and trigger stable NP formation, as shown in Figure 2.

Table 1 Chemical and physical synthesis of AgNPs

Figure 2 Various approaches to the synthesis of Ag nanoparticles (NPs).

Green approach (biological/conventional methods)

The surging popularity of green methods has triggered synthesis of AgNPs using different sources, like bacteria, fungi, algae, and plants, resulting in large-scale production with less contamination. Green synthesis is an ecofriendly and biocompatible process,119 generally accomplished by using a capping agent/stabilizer (to control size and prevent agglomeration),120 plant extracts, yeast, or bacteria.121

Green synthesis using plant extracts

In contrast to microorganisms, plants have been exhaustively used,as apparent from Table 2. This is because plant phytochemicals show greater reduction and stabilization.122 Eugenia jambolana leaf extract was used to synthesize AgNPs that indicated the presence of alkaloids, flavonoids, saponins, and sugar compounds.123 Bark extract of Saraca asoca indicated the presence of hydroxylamine and carboxyl groups.124 AgNPs using leaves of Rhynchotechum ellipticum were synthesized, and the results indicated the presence of polyphenols, flavonoids, alkaloids, terpenoids, carbohydrates, and steroids.125 Hesperidinwas used to form AgNPs of 20–40 nm.126 Phenolic compounds of pyrogallol and oleic acid were reported to be essential for the reduction of silver salt to form NPs.127 Pepper-leaf extract acts as a reducing and capping agent in the formation of AgNPs of 5–60 nm.128 Fruit extracts of Malus domestica acted as a reducing agent. Similarly, Vitis vinifera,39 Andean blackberry,129 Adansonia digitata,130 Solanum nigrum,131 Nitraria schoberi132 or multiple fruit peels have also been reported for AgNP synthesis.133 Combinations of plant extracts have also been reported.134 Some other reductants used for AgNO3 are polysaccharide,135 soluble starch,136 natural rubber,137 tarmac,138 cinnamon,25 stem-derived callus of green apple,25 red apple,139 egg white,140 lemon grass,141 coffee,142 black tea,143 and Abelmoschus esculentus juice.144 Besides these, an extensive diagram representing different parts of different plant leaves, eg, peel, seed, fruit, bark, flower, stem, and root, also used in nanoformulations, is given in Figure 3. Green synthesis is economical and innocuous.30,38,150

Table 2 Plant-mediated synthesis of AgNPs

Figure 3 Plant mediated synthesis of AgNPs.

Biosynthesis using microorganisms

Bacteria-mediated synthesis of AgNPs

Microorganisms like fungi, bacteria, and yeast are of huge interest for NP synthesis; however, the process is threatened by culture contamination, lengthy procedures, and less control over NP size. NPs formed by microorganisms can be classified into distinct categories, depending upon the location where they are synthesized.183 Otari et al synthesized AgNPs intracellularly using Actinobacteria Rhodococcussp. NCIM 2891.184 Kannan et al biosynthesized AgNPs using Bacillus subtillus extracellularly.185 Table 3 provides some illustrative examples of the synthesis of AgNPs using different bacterial strains.

Table 3 Bacteria-mediated synthesis of AgNPs

Alga-mediated synthesis of AgNPs

A diverse group of aquatic microorganisms, algae have been used substantially and reported to synthesize AgNPs. They vary in size, from microscopic (picoplankton) to macroscopic (Rhodophyta). AgNPs were synthesized using microalgae Chaetoceros calcitrans, C. salina, Isochrysis galbana, and Tetraselmis gracilis199 Cystophora moniliformis marine algae were used by Prasad et al as a reducing and stabilizing agent to synthesize AgNPs.200 Table 4 illustrates some examples of the micro and macro-algae used for AgNPs synthesis.

Table 4 Alga-mediated synthesis of AgNPs

Fungus-mediated synthesis of AgNPs

Extracellular synthesis of AgNPs using fungi is also a viable alternative, because of their economical large-scale production. Fungal strains are chosen over bacterial species, because of their better tolerance and metal-bioaccumulation property. Table 5 gives some of the fungal strains used for AgNP synthesis.

Table 5 Fungus-mediated synthesis of AgNPs

Synthesis from miscellaneous sources

Nanotechnology has placed DNA on a recent drive to be used as a reducing agent.215 Strong affinity of DNA bases for silver make it a template stabalizer216 AgNPs were synthesized on DNA strands and found to be possibly located at N7 guanine and phosphate.217 Another attempt was made with calf-thymus DNA to synthesize AgNPs.218 Similarly, silver-binding peptides were identified and selected using a combinatorial approach for NP synthesis.219


Antibacterial activity of AgNPs

As a broad-spectrum antibiotic, silver is highly toxic to bacteria. It has been of great interest for the past couple of years, due to its wide spectrum of pharmacological activities, with applications in the fields of agriculture, textiles, and especially medicine. Some attributed contributions are given in Table 6.

Table 6 Antibacterial activities of AgNPs

Antifungal activity of AgNPs

Resistant pathogenic activities of bacteria and fungi have increased invasive infections at an alarming rate. Ultimately, the subsequent need is to find more potent antifungal agents. Table 7 provides some examples from the literature that have reported antifungal properties of green synthesized AgNPs.

Table 7 Antifungal properties of AgNPs

Anticancer activity of AgNPs

The paramount need of today is the synthesis of effective anticancer treatment, as cardiovascular at the top most; cancer is the second most leading cause of human dysphoria. Therefore the synthesis of anticancer agents is of the utmost necessity. AgNPs also possess substantial anticancer activities,239 as shown in Table 8.

Table 8 Anticancer property of AgNPs

Anti-inflammatory activity of AgNPs

AgNPs of 20–80 nm were synthesized using Sambucus nigra (blackberry) extract. The NPs were characterized using ultraviolet-visible and Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy and X-ray diffraction, and further investigations were carried out for anti-inflammatory effects, both in vitro and in vivo, against Wister rats.177

Antiviral activity of AgNPs

Multidimensional biological activities of AgNPs provide significant antiviral potentiality. HEPES buffer was used to synthesize NPs of 5–20 nm. Postinfection antiviral activity of AgNPs was evaluated using Hut/CCR5 cells using ELISA. AgNPs inhibited HIV1 retrovirus 17%–187% more than the reverse-transcriptase inhibitor azidothymidine triphosphate245 Polysulfone-incorporated AgNPs manifested antiviral and antibacterial activity. This was attributed to the release of sufficient silver ions from the membrane, acting as an antiviral agent.246


The medicinal herb neem (Millingtonia hortensis) has been used to synthesize AgNPs, and showed significant cardioprotective properties in rats.178

Wound dressing

anotechnology has contributed significantly in the area of wound healing, as healing is attributed to increased anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial activity. A cotton fabric treated with NPs of size 22 nm exhibited potent healing power.247 Another advance in this area was made with the impregnation of AgNPs into bacterial cellulose for antimicrobial wound dressing. Acetobacter xylinum (strain TISTR 975) was used to produce bacterial cellulose, which was immersed in silver nitrate solution. It was effective against both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria.248 The performance of a polymer is increased by the introduction of inorganic NPs. In this regard, polyurethane solution containing silver ions was reduced by dimethylformamide using electrospinning. Collagen was introduced to increase its hydrophilicity. This collagen sponge incorporatingd AgNPs had enhanced wound-healing ability in an animal model.249 Most recently, Jacob et al biosynthesized nanoengineered tissue impregnated with AgNPs, which significantly prevented borne bacterial growth on the surface of tissue and could help in controlling health-associated infections.250


Nature has its own coaching manners of synthesizing miniaturized functional materials. Increasing awareness of green chemistry and the benefit of synthesis of AgNPs using plant extracts can be ascribed to the fact that it is ecofriendly, low in cost, and provides maximum protection to human health. Green synthesized AgNPs have unmatched significance in the field of nanotechnology. AgNPs cover a wide spectrum of significant pharmacological activities, and the cost-effectiveness provides an alternative to local drugs. Besides plant-mediated green synthesis, special emphasis has also been placed on the diverse bioassays exhibited by AgNPs. This review will help researchers to develop novel AgNP-based drugs using green technology.

Author contributions

All authors contributed to data analysis, drafting or revising the article, gave final approval of the version to be published, and agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work.


The authors report no conflicts of interest in this work.


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