A practical non-enzymatic urea sensor based on NiCo2O4 nanoneedles†
We propose a new facile electrochemical sensing platform for determination of urea, based on a glassy carbon electrode (GCE) modified with nickel cobalt oxide (NiCo2O4) nanoneedles. These nanoneedles are used for the first time for highly sensitive determination of urea with the lowest detection limit (1 μM) ever reported for the non-enzymatic approach. The nanoneedles were grown through a simple and low-temperature aqueous chemical method. We characterized the structural and morphological properties of the NiCo2O4 nanoneedles by TEM, SEM, XPS and XRD. The bimetallic nickel cobalt oxide exhibits nanoneedle morphology, which results from the self-assembly of nanoparticles. The NiCo2O4 nanoneedles are exclusively composed of Ni, Co, and O and exhibit a cubic crystalline phase. Cyclic voltammetry was used to study the enhanced electrochemical properties of a NiCo2O4 nanoneedle-modified GCE by overcoming the typical poor conductivity of bare NiO and Co3O4. The GCE-modified electrode is highly sensitive towards urea, with a linear response (R2 = 0.99) over the concentration range 0.01–5 mM and with a detection limit of 1.0 μM. The proposed non-enzymatic urea sensor is highly selective even in the presence of common interferents such as glucose, uric acid, and ascorbic acid. This new urea sensor has good viability for urea analysis in urine samples and can represent a significant advancement in the field, owing to the simple and cost-effective fabrication of electrodes, which can be used as a promising analytical tool for urea estimation.