Inexpensive, rapid, and reliable methods of detection are crucial to the control of toxicological investigations. Here we report a highly sensitive, selective and cost effective method for the detection of trace amounts of clonazepam based on gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) in the presence of melamine. Hydrogen bonding interactions between clonazepam and melamine resulted in the aggregation of AuNPs and a consequent color change of AuNPs from wine red to blue. The results showed that the absorption ratio (A636/A552) was linear for clonazepam concentrations in the range of 10 × 10−8 to 1.0 × 10−9 M (R2 = 0.999). The detection limit was 8.9 × 10−10 M (S/N = 3), which was much lower than that of most existing methods. Coexisting substances including alprazolam, diazepam, nitrazepam and lorazepam did not affect the determination of clonazepam. The sensor developed by this new approach could be used as a spot test and a good alternative means for on-site and real time screening of clonazepam. This proposed scheme was also supported by the use of real samples such as skeletal remains and blood to illustrate the applicability of the developed nanosensor by a series of experiments.
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