Ionic liquid-based optoelectronic sensor arrays for chemical detection†
Development of ionic liquid (IL)-based colorimetric sensor arrays for detection and identification of chemicals in both the aqueous and vapor phases is reported. These facile and inexpensive optoelectronic sensors were fabricated by using ionic liquids (ILs) derived from readily available pH indicator dyes. A series of 12 different chemosensory ILs were synthesized by pairing anionic pH indicator dyes with trihexyl(tetradecyl)phosphonium ([P66614]) cation via an ion exchange reaction. The incorporation of the [P66614] cation imparted hydrophobic characteristics to these ILs, and this induced hydrophobicity led to their desired low solubility in aqueous solutions, as well as eliminated the need for a specialized hydrophobic matrix/substrate for immobilization. In this manuscript, four different matrices, i.e. glass microfiber filter papers, cotton threads, silica thin layer chromatography (TLC) plates, and alumina TLC plates, were employed for fabrication of sensor arrays. These sensor arrays were used to analyze pH values of aqueous solutions as well as for detection of acidic and basic vapors. To further prove the applicability of these IL sensor arrays as tools to sense closely related complex materials, the arrays were applied to successful discrimination of aqueous solutions of smoke from three commercially available cigarettes. The digital data generated from these sensor arrays were used in developing predictive models for accurately identifying various analytes. Two approaches were used for developing the models, and two methods were applied for assessing the predictive accuracy of the models. Use of cotton threads as a matrix led to development of a more flexible, low volume, and lightweight array to estimate pH and detect a variety of vapors. These wearable arrays may possibly be incorporated into bandages, sweatbands, diapers, and similar systems. Overall, these IL-based sensor arrays should provide a new research direction in the development of advanced colorimetric sensor arrays for detection and identification of a range of analytes relevant to many different applications.