The starch-stabilized Ag nanoparticles were successfully synthesized via a reduction approach and characterized with SPR UV/Vis spectroscopy, TEM, and HRTEM. By utilizing the redox reaction between Ag nanoparticles and Hg2+, and the resulted decrease in UV/Vis signal, we develop a colorimetric method for detection of Hg2+ion. A linear relationship stands between the absorbance intensity of the Ag nanoparticles and the concentration of Hg2+ion over the range from 10 ppb to 1 ppm at the absorption of 390 nm. The detection limit for Hg2+ions in homogeneous aqueous solutions is estimated to be ~5 ppb. This system shows excellent selectivity for Hg2+over other metal ions including Na+, K+, Ba2+, Mg2+, Ca2+, Fe3+, and Cd2+. The results shown herein have potential implications in the development of new colorimetric sensors for easy and selective detection and monitoring of mercuric ions in aqueous solutions.
KeywordsNanoparticles Recognition Mercury ion Silver Colorimetric
(See supplementary material 1)
Noble metal nanostructures have drawn great interests because of their unique properties. One of them is large optical field enhancements resulting in strong scattering and absorption of light . Remarkable progresses have been made in diverse research fields such as optical spectroscopy, cell imaging, quantum information processing, nanophotonics, and building blocks for nanoscale devices and chemical sensors [2–4]. The interesting optical attributes of metal nanoparticles, as reflected in their bright intense colors, are due to their localized surface-plasmon resonance (LSPR) [5, 6]. So each metal nanoparticle can be considered an optical probe equivalent to up to a million dye molecules. As a result, nanoparticles at nanomolar concentration can clearly be observed by naked eyes, allowing sensitive detection with minimal consumption of materials. Unlike dyes, metal nanoparticles are photostable and do not undergo photobleaching, allowing the nanoparticles to be utilized as ideal color reporting groups for colorimetric sensor design .
Among heavy metals, mercury is one of the most commonly encountered toxic pollutants in the environment as a result of natural processes and emissions from coal-burning power plants and gold mining . In aqueous solution, bacteria can transform water-soluble mercuric ion (Hg2+) into methylmercury, which subsequently bioaccumulates through the food chain . Methylmercury is known to cause health problems such as sensory, motor, and neurological damage. It is particularly dangerous for children, because it can cause developmental delays . Although the traditional instrumental techniques, such as absorption spectroscopy, cold vapor atomic fluorescence spectrometry, and gas chromatography, give the direct and quantitative detection of Hg2+ concentration [11, 12], it is highly desirable to develop facile and quick methods for measuring the level of this detrimental metallic ion in the environment with high sensitivity and selectivity. To date, several methods providing the immediate optical feedback for the detection of Hg2+ based upon fluorophores [13–23], chromophores , polymer , and noble metal-based probes [23–25] have been developed to avoid complicated instrumentation or sample preparation. Hg2+ ion, with a closed-shell d10 configuration, has no optical spectroscopic signature. Among the approaches proposed thus far, its optical detection generally relied on the complexation of Hg2+ ion to ligands. Various small-molecules chromophores, biomolecules, chemically modified nanoparticles must carefully be designed and selected [13–28], or showed cross-sensitivity toward other metal ions . In this communication, we present a method with colorimetric quantitative recognition of Hg2+ with excellent selectivity and sensitivity (5 ppb) based on an erosion reaction of starch-stabilized Ag nanoparticles in aqueous media. The easy synthesis and high stability of the starch-stabilized Ag nanoparticle allow the method to be very simple and easy to implement.
All chemicals were of analytical grade and were used as received without further purification. Silver nitrate (AgNO3), sodium borohydride (NaBH4), and soluble starch (linear structure (C6H10O5) n ) for synthesis of silver nanoparticles were supplied by Beijing Chemical Reagent Company and used as received. Chloroauric acid (HAuCl4) was purchased from Sigma–Aldrich. Hg(NO3)2standard solution was from Chinese National Standard Chemical Center. All the other solutions were freshly made for all the experimental procedures in this work. Ultrapure water was used, and all glassware were cleaned with aqua regia and thoroughly rinsed with ultrapure water prior to use.
Synthesis of Silver Nanoparticles
Aqueous starch dispersion containing Ag+ions is prepared by adding 3 mL of a 0.1 M solution of AgNO3to about 200 mL of 0.20% w aqueous solution of soluble starch, followed by stirring to ensure that the mixture was homogeneous. Next, 6 mL of freshly prepared 0.1 M NaBH4was added all at once with vigorous stirring. A color change occurred almost immediately. The solution was allowed to stir for an additional 30 min at room temperature, the as-prepared Ag nanoparticles formed and used without purification.
The X-ray powder diffraction (XRD) patterns were collected on a Bruker D8 advance X-ray diffractometer equipped with graphite monochromatized Cu Kα radiation (λ = 1.5418Å). High-resolution transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM) images were recorded by a JEOL 2100 transmission electron microscope equipped with an energy-dispersive X-ray spectrometer (EDS). The changes in the UV–vis absorption spectra were monitored at room temperature using a double-beam UV–vis spectrophotometer, Shimadzu UV-240 (Japan) with 1 cm quartz cell. In each measurement, 3 mL reaction solution was used.
General Procedure for Detection of Metal Ions
Many tests were carried out to optimize the sensing conditions such as addition time and concentration. In a typical procedure, three steps were involved. First, 1 mL freshly prepared Ag nanoparticles were diluted with deionized water to obtain a 1.5 × 10−4 M solution. Second, different amounts of Hg2+or other metal ions were separately injected into series cuvettes containing the silver nanoparticles followed by vigorous stirring. It was found that all the sensing systems were very stable and no precipitates or flocs were observed. Third, 3 mL reaction solution was separately taken out from the cuvette and injected into a standard 1 cm quartz cell for the measurement of UV–vis spectrum.
Results and Discussion
Characterizations of the Ag Nanoparticles and Sensing Detection of Hg2+
where ε1 and ε2 are, respectively, the dielectric functions for the sphere and embedding regions, λ is the incident field wavelength, α denotes the nanoparticle polarizability, NA is the Avogadro number, b denotes the length of the optical path, and c is the concentration of the Ag nanoparticles. A linear relationship between the absorption intensity and the concentration of Ag nanoparticles could be observed from the Eq. 1, which supports the quantitative detection of Hg2+ based on an erosion reaction of Ag nanoparticles.
Selective Detection of Hg2+
In conclusion, the starch-stabilized Ag nanoparticles were obtained via a reduction approach. Hg2+ions in aqueous media were recognized by these nanoparticles via a colorimetric method with very high selectivity and sensitivity. This approach relies on the simple redox reaction between Ag nanoparticles and Hg2+ion solution. The concentration of Hg2+can be determined by the change of the intensity of the silver absorbance peak at room temperature. Influence of various metal ions has also been investigated. Most of molecular chromophores for Hg2+have to be evaluated in organic media or organic–aqueous mixtures owing to their low water solubility. The facile synthesis, high stability, and high water solubility of the starch-stabilized Ag nanoparticle probes allow a reliable assay performed in aqueous environments.
Helpful discussion with Prof. Yitai Qian and Financial supports from National Natural Science Found of China (NSFC 20501014), Program for New Century Excellent Talents in University (NCET-06-0586), Key Project of Chinese Ministry of Education (No. 109098) and National Basic Research Program of China (973 Program 2005CB623601, 2007CB936602) are gratefully acknowledged.