A new europium(III) membrane luminescent sensor based on a new tridentate bis(phosphinic acid)phosphine oxide (3) system has been developed. The synthesis of this new ligand is described and its full characterization by NMR, IR and elemental analyses is provided. The luminescent complex formed between europium(III) chloride and ligand 3 was evaluated in solution, observing that its spectroscopic and chemical characteristics are excellent for measuring in polymer inclusion membranes. Included in a Nafion membrane, all the parameters (ligand and ionic additives) that can affect the sensitivity and selectivity of the sensing membrane as well as the instrumental conditions were carefully optimized. The best luminescence signal (λexc = 229.06 nm and λem = 616.02 nm) was exhibited by the sensing film having a Nafion : ligand composition of 262.3 : 0.6 mg mL−1. The membrane sensor showed a short response time (t95 = 5.0 ± 0.2 min) and an optimum working pH of 5.0 (25 mM acetate buffer solution). The membrane sensor manifested a good selectivity toward europium(III) ions with respect to other trivalent metals (iron, chromium and aluminium) and lanthanide(III) ions (lanthanum, samarium, terbium and ytterbium), although a small positive interference of terbium(III) ions was observed. It provided a linear range from 1.9 × 10−8 to 5.0 × 10−6 M with a very low detection limit (5.8 × 10−9 M) and sensitivity (8.57 × 10−7 a.u. per M). The applicability of this sensing film has been demonstrated by analyzing different kinds of spiked water samples obtaining recovery percentages of 95–97%.
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