A fluorescent colorimetric pH sensor was developed by a polymerization of a monomeric fluorescein based green emitter (SM1) with a monomeric 2-dicyanomethylene-3-cyano-4,5,5-trimethyl-2,5-dihydrofuran derived red emitter (SM2) in poly(2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate)-co-polyacrylamide (PHEMA-co-PAM) matrices. Polymerized SM1 (PSM1) in the polymer matrices showed bright emissions at basic conditions and weak emissions at acidic conditions. Polymerized SM2 (PSM2) in the polymer matrices exhibited a vastly different response when compared to PSM1. The emissions of PSM2 are stronger under acidic conditions than those under basic conditions. When SM1 and SM2 were polymerized in the same polymer matrix, a dual emission sensor acting as a ratiometric pH sensor (PSM1,2) was successfully developed. Because the PSM1 and PSM2 exhibited different pH responses and separated emission windows, the changes in the emission colors were clearly observed in their dual color sensor of PSM1,2, which changed emission colors dramatically from green at pH 7 to red at pH 4, which was detected visually and/or by using a color camera under an excitation of 488 nm. In addition to the development of the dual color ratiometric pH sensor, we also studied the effects of different matrix compositions, crosslinkers, and charges on the reporting capabilities of the sensors (sensitivity and pKa).
Tian, Yanqing, Emily Fuller, Summer Klug, Fred Lee, Fengyu Su, Liqiang Zhang, Shih-hui Chao, Deirdre R. Meldrum
Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical