Instant visual detection of trinitrotoluene particulates on various surfaces by ratiometric fluorescence of dual-emission quantum dots hybrid

Kui Zhang, Haibo Zhou, Qingsong Mei, Suhua Wang, Guijian Guan, Renyong Liu, Jian Zhang, Zhongping Zhang
Journal of the American Chemical Society 2011 June 8, 133 (22): 8424-7
To detect trace trinitrotoluene (TNT) explosives deposited on various surfaces instantly and on-site still remains a challenge for homeland security needs against terrorism. This work demonstrates a new concept and its utility for visual detection of TNT particulates on various package materials. The concept takes advantages of the superior fluorescent properties of quantum dots (QDs) for visual signal output via ratiometric fluorescence, the feasibility of surface grafting of QDs for chemical recognition of TNT, and the ease of operation of the fingerprint lifting technique. Two differently sized CdTe QDs emitting red and green fluorescences, respectively, have been hybridized by embedding the red-emitting one in silica nanoparticles and covalently linking the green-emitting one to the silica surface, respectively, to form a dual-emissive fluorescent hybrid nanoparticle. The fluorescence of red QDs in the silica nanoparticles stays constant, whereas the green QDs functionalized with polyamine can selectively bind TNT by the formation of Meisenheimer complex, leading to the green fluorescence quenching due to resonance energy transfer. The variations of the two fluorescence intensity ratios display continuous color changes from yellow-green to red upon exposure to different amounts of TNT. By immobilization of the probes on a piece of filter paper, a fingerprint lifting technique has been innovated to visualize trace TNT particulates on various surfaces by the appearance of a different color against a yellow-green background under a UV lamp. This method shows high selectivity and sensitivity with a detection limit as low as 5 ng/mm(2) on a manila envelope and the attribute of being seen with the naked eye.

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