Trace Ethylene Sensing via Wacker Oxidation

ACS Cent Sci. 2020 Apr 22;6(4):507-512. doi: 10.1021/acscentsci.0c00022. Epub 2020 Mar 18.


Ethylene is a dynamic plant hormone, and its temporal monitoring can be used to glean insight into plant health and status. However, the real-time distributed detection of ethylene at trace levels under ambient conditions remains a challenge. We report a single-walled carbon nanotube-based chemiresistor catalyst combination that can detect ppb levels of ethylene in air. Cycling between Pd(II) and Pd(0) via Wacker oxidation with a nitrite cocatalyst imparts response discrimination driven by the chemoselectivity of the chemical transformation. Sensitivity is controlled by a combination of the chemical reaction efficiency and the n-doping strength of the Pd(0) species generated in situ. The covalent functionalization of the carbon nanotube sidewall with pyridyl ligands drastically improves the device sensitivity via enhanced n-doping. The utility of this ethylene sensor is demonstrated in the monitoring of senescence in red carnations and purple lisianthus flowers.