Mesoporous Silica Thin Films for Improved Electrochemical Detection of Paraquat

An electrochemical method was developed for rapid and sensitive detection of the herbicide paraquat in aqueous samples using mesoporous silica thin film modified glassy carbon electrodes (GCE). Vertically aligned mesoporous silica thin films were deposited onto GCE by electrochemically assisted self-assembly (EASA). Cyclic voltammetry revealed effective response to the cationic analyte (while rejecting anions) thanks to the charge selectivity exhibited by the negatively charged mesoporous channels. Square wave voltametry (SWV) was then used to detect paraquat via its one electron reduction process. Influence of various experimental parameters (i.e., pH, electrolyte concentration, and nature of electrolyte anions) on sensitivity was investigated and discussed with respect to the mesopore characteristics and accumulation efficiency, pointing out the key role of charge distribution in such confined spaces on these processes. Calibration plots for paraquat concentration ranging from 10 nM to 10 μM were constructed at mesoporous silica modified GCE which were linear with increasing paraquat concentration, showing dramatically enhanced sensitivity (almost 30 times) as compared to nonmodified electrodes. Finally, real samples from Meuse River (France) spiked with paraquat, without any pretreatment (except filtration), were analyzed by SWV, revealing the possible detection of paraquat at very low concentration (10–50 nM). Limit of detection (LOD) calculated from real sample analysis was found to be 12 nM, which is well below the permissible limits of paraquat in drinking water (40–400 nM) in various countries.