Chemistry

Sensing Mercury

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Science  05 Mar 2004:
Vol. 303, Issue 5663, pp. 1439
DOI: 10.1126/science.303.5663.1439b

One aspect of environmental monitoring is the detection of low levels of heavy metal ions. Of these, mercury is a particular concern because it is highly toxic, and it accumulates through the activity of microorganisms in the form of methyl mercury. Palomeres et al. have constructed a simple detector based on mesoporous nanocrystalline titanium dioxide films. These TiO2 films have both a high surface area and excellent optical transparency in the visible region of the spectrum. A ruthenium-based dye (N719) was adsorbed onto the films to give a color signal detectable by visual inspection (down to 20 μM concentrations) or by spectrophotometric means (down to 0.3 μM concentrations). Exposure of the sensor to mercury causes a shift in the absorption spectra toward the violet, but surprisingly no changes were observed for any of the other divalent metal ions that were tested. — MSL

Chem. Commun. 4, 362 (2004).

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