Considering the chemical energy requirements of the tri-n-propylamine co-reactant pathways for the judicious design of new electrogenerated chemiluminescence detection systems
The introduction of a ‘co-reactant’ was a critical step in the evolution of electrogenerated chemiluminescence (ECL) from a laboratory curiosity to a widely utilised detection system. In conjunction with a suitable electrochemiluminophore, the co-reactant enables generation of both the oxidised and reduced precursors to the emitting species at a single electrode potential, under the aqueous conditions required for most analytical applications. The most commonly used co-reactant is tri-n-propylamine (TPrA), which was developed for the classic tris(2,2′-bipyridine)ruthenium(II) ECL reagent. New electrochemiluminophores such as cyclometalated iridium(III) complexes are also evaluated with this co-reactant. However, attaining the excited states in these systems can require much greater energy than that of tris(2,2′-bipyridine)ruthenium(II), which has implications for the co-reactant reaction pathways. In this tutorial review, we describe a simple graphical approach to characterise the energetically feasible ECL pathways with TPrA, as a useful tool for the development of new ECL detection systems.