American Chemical Society
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Durable Nanocellulose-Stabilized Emulsions of Dithizone/Chloroform in Water for Hg2+ Detection: A Novel Approach for a Classical Problem

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posted on 2023-02-23, 21:30 authored by Roberto J. Aguado, André Mazega, Núria Fiol, Quim Tarrés, Pere Mutjé, Marc Delgado-Aguilar
The use of dithizone (DTZ) for colorimetric heavy-metal detection is approximately one century old. However, its pending stability issues and the need for simple indicators justify further research. Using cellulose nanofibers, we attained DTZ-containing emulsions with high stability. These emulsions had water (at least 95 wt %) and acetic acid (1–8 mL/L) conforming the continuous phase, while dispersed droplets of diameter <1 μm contained chloroform-solvated DTZ (3 wt %). The solvation cluster was computed by molecular dynamics simulations, suggesting that chloroform slightly reduces the dihedral angle between the two sides of the thiocarbazone chain. Nanocellulose concentrations over 0.2 wt % sufficed to obtain macroscopically homogeneous mixtures with no phase separation. Furthermore, the rate of degradation of DTZ in the nanocellulose-stabilized emulsion did not differ significantly from a DTZ/chloroform solution, outperforming DTZ/toluene and DTZ/acetonitrile. Not only is the emulsion readily and immediately responsive to mercury(II), but it also decreases interferences from other ions and from natural samples. Unexpectedly, neither lead(II) nor cadmium(II) triggered a visual response at trace concentrations. The limit of detection of these emulsions is 15 μM or 3 mg/L, exceeding WHO limits for mercury(II) in drinking water, but they could be effective at raising alarms.