Switchable Dopants on Percolation Networks of 2D Materials for Chemiresistive Sensing Applications in Aqueous Environments
Department of Chemistry
Wednesday, September 11, 2019
C2-278 (Mini-link Room)
Permanent doping of semiconductors and low-dimensional structures to modulate their electronic properties is a well-established concept. Even in cases where doping of thin films by analytes (e.g. carbon nanotubes by ammonia) is applied in sensors, it is only reversed by physical removal of dopant molecules, e.g. heating. We have introduced the concept of molecular switches as chemical dopants for thin nanocarbon (or other 2D-materials) films. These molecules can be switched between doping and non-doping states in the presence or absence of a particular analyte. They impart selectivity not only due to their change in doping behavior, but also by physically blocking other potential dopants in the analyte solution from interacting with the conductive film. The resulting structures can act as chemiresistive films.
Chemiresistive sensors are a well-established technology for gas-phase sensing applications. They are simple and economical to manufacture, and can operate reagent-free and with low or no maintenance. Unlike electrochemical sensors they do not require reference electrodes. While in principle they can be made compatible with aqueous environments, only a few such examples have been demonstrated. Challenges include the need to prevent electrical shorts through the aqueous medium and the need to keep the sensing voltage low enough to avoid electrochemical reactions at the sensor. We have built a chemiresistive sensing platform for aqueous media. The active sensor element consists of a percolation network of low-dimensional materials particles that form a conducting film, e.g. from carbon nanotubes, pencil trace or exfoliated graphene. The first member of that platform was a free chlorine sensor. We are currently working to expand the applicability of our platform to other relevant species, in particular anions and cations that are commonly present as pollutants in surface and drinking water. Our sensors can be incorporated into a variety of systems and will also be suitable for online monitoring in remote and resource-poor locations.
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