Tetraphenylethylene imidazolium macrocycle: synthesis and selective fluorescence turn-on sensing of pyrophosphate anions†
A new imidazolium macrocycle based on tetraphenylethylene (TPE) has been synthesized. This positively charged macrocycle showed a typical aggregation-induced emission (AIE) effect but fluorescence emission could not be induced by common inorganic anions in aqueous solution, including pyrophosphate bearing four negative charges. However, in the presence of a half equivalent of zinc(II) ions, the addition of pyrophosphate anions could arouse a strong fluorescence while other common inorganic anions gave almost no response. The macrocycle has an inherent cavity with the correct size for binding a pyrophosphate anion, so that the pyrophosphate anion can be easily aggregated together with the macrocycle and a zinc cation, which selectively triggers a turn-on fluorescence.