One-step assembly of fluorescence-based cyanide sensors from inexpensive, off-the-shelf materials

Gregory E. Fernandes, Ya Wen Chang, Akash Sharma, Sarah Tutt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


We report a simple and versatile approach to assemble sensitive and selective fluorescence “turn-on” sensors for cyanide by combining three off-the-shelf materials; namely fluorescent dye, 1-vinyl imidazole polymer, and cupric chloride. The cyanide-sensing species is a non-fluorescent fluorophore-polymer-Cu2+ complex; which forms as a result of the imidazole polymer’s ability to bind both fluorophore and fluorescence quencher (Cu2+). Cyanide removes Cu2+ from these complexes; thereby “turning-on” sensor fluorescence. These sensors are water-soluble and have a detection limit of ~2.5 μM (CN-) in water. Our ternary complex-based sensing approach also enables facile emission tuning; we demonstrate the convenient, synthesis-free preparation of blue and green-emitting sensors using distyrylbiphenyl and fluorescein fluorophores, respectively. Furthermore; these ternary complexes are easily immobilized using agarose to create cyanide-sensing hydrogels; which are then used in a simple; novel microdiffusion apparatus to achieve interference-free cyanide analysis of aqueous media. The present study provides an inexpensive approach for portable; interference-free cyanide detection.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4488
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalSensors (Switzerland)
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 2 2020


  • Agarose
  • Complex
  • Cyanide
  • Fluorescence
  • Hydrogel
  • Microdiffusion
  • Non-covalent
  • Off-on
  • Sensor
  • Turn-on


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