Selective chromo-fluorogenic detection of DFP (a Sarin and Soman mimic) and DCNP (a Tabun mimic) with a unique probe based on a boron dipyrromethene (BODIPY) dye†
A novel colorimetric probe (P4) for the selective differential detection of DFP (a Sarin and Soman mimic) and DCNP (a Tabun mimic) was prepared. Probe P4 contains three reactive sites; i.e. (i) a nucleophilic phenol group able to undergo phosphorylation with nerve gases, (ii) a carbonyl group as a reactive site for cyanide; and (iii) a triisopropylsilyl (TIPS) protecting group that is known to react with fluoride. The reaction of P4 with DCNP in acetonitrile resulted in both the phosphorylation of the phenoxy group and the release of cyanide, which was able to react with the carbonyl group of P4 to produce a colour modulation from pink to orange. In contrast, phosphorylation of P4 with DFP in acetonitrile released fluoride that hydrolysed the TIPS group in P4 to yield a colour change from pink to blue. Probe P4 was able to discriminate between DFP and DCNP with remarkable sensitivity; limits of detection of 0.36 and 0.40 ppm for DCNP and DFP, respectively, were calculated. Besides, no interference from other organophosphorous derivatives or with presence of acid was observed. The sensing behaviour of P4 was also retained when incorporated into silica gel plates or onto polyethylene oxide membranes, which allowed the development of simple test strips for the colorimetric detection of DCNP and DFP in the vapour phase. P4 is the first probe capable of colorimetrically differentiating between a Tabun mimic (DCNP) and a Sarin and Soman mimic (DFP).