FRET-based ratiometric detection system for mercury ions in water with polymeric particles as scaffolds

Chao Ma, Fang Zeng, Lifang Huang, Shuizhu Wu
Journal of Physical Chemistry. B 2011 February 10, 115 (5): 874-82
Mercury pollution is a global problem, and the development of stable and sensitive fluorescent probes for mercury ions in the water phase has long been sought. In this work, a novel fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET)-based ratiometric sensor for detecting Hg(2+) in pure water was demonstrated. Polymeric nanoparticles prepared by miniemulsion polymerization of methyl methacrylate and acrylic acid were used as the scaffold for the FRET-based sensor. A hydrophobic fluorescent dye nitrobenzoxadiazolyl derivative (NBD) was embedded in the nanoparticles during the polymerization and used as the donor. A spirolactam rhodamine derivative SRHB-NH(2) was synthesized and then covalently linked onto the particle surface and used as an ion recognition element. The presence of Hg(2+) in the water dispersion of nanoparticles induced the ring-opening reaction of the spirolactam rhodamine moieties and led to the occurrence of the FRET process, affording the nanoparticle system a ratiometric sensor for Hg(2+). The nanoparticle sensor can selectively detect the Hg(2+) in water with the detection limit of 100 nM (ca. 20 ppb). It has been found that the FRET-based system with smaller nanoparticles as the scaffold exhibited higher energy transfer efficiency and was more preferred for the accurate ratiometric detection. Moreover, the FRET-based sensor was applicable in a relatively wide pH range (pH 4-8) in water; thus, this approach may provide a new strategy for ratiometric detection of analytes in environmental and biological applications.

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