AIE-doped poly(ionic liquid) photonic spheres: a single sphere-based customizable sensing platform for the discrimination of multi-analytes
By simultaneously exploiting the unique properties of ionic liquids and aggregation-induced emission (AIE) luminogens, as well as photonic structures, a novel customizable sensing system for multi-analytes was developed based on a single AIE-doped poly(ionic liquid) photonic sphere. It was found that due to the extraordinary multiple intermolecular interactions involved in the ionic liquid units, one single sphere could differentially interact with broader classes of analytes, thus generating response patterns with remarkable diversity. Moreover, the optical properties of both the AIE luminogen and photonic structure integrated in the poly(ionic liquid) sphere provide multidimensional signal channels for transducing the involved recognition process in a complementary manner and the acquisition of abundant and sufficient sensing information could be easily achieved on only one sphere sensor element. More importantly, the sensing performance of our poly(ionic liquid) photonic sphere is designable and customizable through a simple ion-exchange reaction and target-oriented multi-analyte sensing can be conveniently realized using a selective receptor species, such as counterions, showing great flexibility and extendibility. The power of our single sphere-based customizable sensing system was exemplified by the successful on-demand detection and discrimination of four multi-analyte challenge systems: all 20 natural amino acids, nine important phosphate derivatives, ten metal ions and three pairs of enantiomers. To further demonstrate the potential of our spheres for real-life application, 20 amino acids in human urine and their 26 unprecedented complex mixtures were also discriminated between by the single sphere-based array.