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Hg2+-Reactive Double Hydrophilic Block Copolymer Assemblies as Novel Multifunctional Fluorescent Probes with Improved Performance

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journal contribution
posted on 19.01.2010, 00:00 by Jinming Hu, Changhua Li, Shiyong Liu
We report on novel type of responsive double hydrophilic block copolymer (DHBC)-based multifunctional chemosensors to Hg2+ ions, pH, and temperatures and investigate the effects of thermo-induced micellization on the detection sensitivity. Well-defined DHBCs bearing rhodamine B-based Hg2+-reactive moieties (RhBHA) in the thermo-responsive block, poly(ethylene oxide)-b-poly(N-isopropylacrylamide-co-RhBHA) (PEO-b-P(NIPAM-co-RhBHA)), were synthesized via reversible addition−fragmentation chain transfer (RAFT) polymerization. Nonfluorescent RhBHA moieties are subjected to selective ring-opening reaction upon addition of Hg2+ ions or lowering solution pH, producing highly fluorescent acyclic species. Thus, at room temperature PEO-b-P(NIPAM-co-RhBHA) DHBCs can serve as water-soluble multifunctional and efficient fluorescent chemosensors to Hg2+ ions and pH. Upon heating above the lower critical solution temperature (∼36 °C) of the PNIPAM block, they self-assemble into micelles possessing P(NIPAM-co-RhBHA) cores and well-solvated PEO coronas, which were fully characterized by dynamic and static laser light scattering. It was found that the detection sensitivity to Hg2+ ions and pH could be dramatically improved at elevated temperatures due to fluorescence enhancement of RhBHA residues in the acyclic form, which were embedded within hydrophobic cores of thermo-induced micellar aggregates. This work represents a proof-of-concept example of responsive DHBC-based multifunctional fluorescent chemosensors for the highly efficient detection of Hg2+ ions, pH, and temperatures with tunable detection sensitivity. Compared to reaction-based small molecule Hg2+ probes in previous literature reports, the integration of stimuli-responsive block copolymers with well-developed small molecule-based selective sensing moieties in the current study are expected to exhibit preferred advantages including enhanced detection sensitivity, water dispersibility, biocompatibility, facile incorporation into devices, and the ability of further functionalization for targeted imaging and detection.