Analytical Chemistry, 83(7), p. 2712-2718 (2011); doi:10.1021/ac103268r
The synthesis and characterization of a novel water-compatible microsized material, based on fluorescent conjugated polymers (CPs), and its applicability for optical sensing of inorganic ions of environment interest (copper and cyanide) in water media is here described. Polyfluorene-based fluorescent CPs were synthesized and functionalized with imidazole moieties (selective recognition element) and a terminal double bond (covalently linked to an organic matrix) through a postfunctionalization strategy. Further, microspheres of the novel imidazole-functionalized fluorescent CPs, able to work in water media, were synthesized via a microemulsion and polymerization procedure. The synthesized imidazole-functionalized CP microspheres were then evaluated as fluorescence “turn-Off” sensing materials for Cu2+ detection in aqueous media. Analyte detection was based on the quenching effect of the Cu2+, selectively recognized by the imidazole group, on the polymer fluorescence emission. The developed optosensor exhibits a detection limit of 1 μg/L for the determination of Cu2+ in water with a reproducibility of 4%. The synthesized microsized material was also evaluated for the “turn-on” optosensing of cyanide in water, measuring the recovery of the emission signal from the CP that has been previously deactivated by the presence of quencher species. The “turn-On” optosensor allows the selective determination of free cyanide in aqueous solution with high sensitivity (detection limit of 18 μg/L), obtaining a reproducibility of 2.9%. A high sample throughput (between 7 and 12 samples per hour) was achieved in both cases. Analytical applicability of the fluorescent CP microsphere materials has been successfully demonstrated by tap and mineral water analysis.