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Visual and Precise Detection of pH Values under Extreme Acidic and Strong Basic Environments by Cellulose-Based Superior Sensor

Nawaz, Haq, Tian, Weiguo, Zhang, Jinming, Jia, Ruonan, Yang, Tiantian, Yu, Jian, Zhang, Jun
Analytical chemistry 2019 v.91 no.4 pp. 3085-3092
acidity, color, dyes, environmental monitoring, fluorescence, moieties, pH, urea
Precise determination of pH values with an instrument-free mode is challenging and practical in industry processes, life science, and environmental monitoring. Here, taking advantage of the intramolecular charge transfer process, we construct a cellulose-based superior pH sensor, Phen-MDI-CA, which contains a highly sensitive, pH-responsive, and extended conjugation structure by combining phenanthroline moiety as a chromophore with urea group as a bridge. The resultant Phen-MDI-CA can precisely and visually determine pH values under extreme acidic and strong basic environments, depending on the different colors. In visible light mode, Phen-MDI-CA can readily discriminate the pH values of 14.0, 13.0, 12.0, and 11.0 and distinguish pH 2.0 from 1.0 by the naked eye. In fluorescent mode, Phen-MDI-CA can recognize more accurate pH values of pH 11.6–13.2 at a 0.2–0.4 pH interval by the high-contrasting color change. After addition of pH-irresponsive dyes as the reference, the corresponding ratiometric systems exhibit different colors at a 0.2–0.4 pH interval during the pH values of 11.0–14.0 and 1.0–2.0. Benefiting from the excellent formability, the Phen-MDI-CA was readily fabricated into pH test strips by coating method. To our knowledge, this is the first study to monitor extreme acidity and strong basicity in such precise pH values with an instrument-free mode.