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Issue 6, 2011
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Photonic crystal hydrogel material for the sensing of toxic mercury ions (Hg2+) in water

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We report the development of a new photonic crystal hydrogel for the sensing of highly toxic mercury ion (Hg2+) in water. This new sensing material optically reports the Hg2+ concentration in watervia diffraction of visible light from polymerized crystalline colloidal array (PCCA). The PCCA consists of light diffracting crystalline colloidal array (CCA) of monodisperse, highly charged polystyrene particles, which are polymerized within the polyacrylamide hydrogel. The changes in hydrogel surroundings trigger the volume change of hydrogel, which alters the lattice spacing of CCA and hence shifts the diffraction wavelength of light. The ions responsive urease coupled PCCA (UPCCA) hydrolyzes the urea and produces the HCO3 and NH4+ ions inside the hydrogel. These ions induce the charge-screening of the polyacrylamide carboxylates by decreasing the electrostatic repulsion between carboxylates and the polyacrylamide backbone relaxes, causing the shrinkage of hydrogel. Hence the UPCCA exhibits the blue shift of the diffracted wavelength. Hg2+ being the principal inhibitor of the urease-urea hydrolysis perturbs urea hydrolysis by the UPCCA when UPCCA is exposed to Hg2+ along with urea and hence suppresses the production of ions. This intervenes the shrinkage of hydrogel and does not allow the hydrogel to shrink as it shrinks in absence of Hg2+. Therefore the PCCA net blue shift decreases in the presence of Hg2+ along with urea compared to only urea. The extent of this hydrogel volume change is a function of Hg2+ concentrations. This UPCCA photonic crystal sensor detects ultra low (1 ppb) concentration of Hg2+ in water, exhibits reversibility and displays very high selectivity towards Hg2+. The uncompetitive inhibition nature of the urease enzyme, when it is covalently attached in the polymer hydrogel backbone, is the driving force for the very high selectivity and reversibility of the UPCCA sensor.

Graphical abstract: Photonic crystal hydrogel material for the sensing of toxic mercury ions (Hg2+) in water

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Publication details

The article was received on 09 Oct 2010, accepted on 04 Jan 2011 and first published on 10 Feb 2011

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C0SM01136C
Citation: Soft Matter, 2011,7, 2592-2599
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    Photonic crystal hydrogel material for the sensing of toxic mercury ions (Hg2+) in water

    D. Arunbabu, A. Sannigrahi and T. Jana, Soft Matter, 2011, 7, 2592
    DOI: 10.1039/C0SM01136C

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