A Formaldehyde Sensor Based on Self-Assembled Monolayers of Oxidized Thiophene Derivatives

Langmuir. 2021 May 18;37(19):5916-5922. doi: 10.1021/acs.langmuir.1c00396. Epub 2021 Apr 28.


High-performance formaldehyde sensors play an important role in air quality assessment. Herein, a self-assembled monolayer (SAM) sensor for trace formaldehyde (FA) is fabricated based on the fluorescence enhancement of oxidized thiophene derivatives. In the primary SAM molecules, the functional backbone trithiophene (3T) links to the anchor through an n-propyl group. The anchor with an active Si-Cl bond can form a covalent bond with the SiO2 substrate by solution incubation, which ensures good stability against organic solvents and high sensitivity via monolayer structures. With the alkyl chain's leading, a dense 3T SAM can be obtained on SiO2. Upon exposure to UV light in the presence of oxygen, 3T can be oxidized into a nonfluorescent but coordination-active product with abundant carbonyl groups, which can be doped with FA and induce a blueshifted fluorescence. With this mechanism, we proposed an SAM-based FA sensor by detecting the enhancement of the blueshifted fluorescence. Reliable reversibility, selectivity, stability, and detection limit lower than 1 ppm are achieved in this system. The work provides an experimental basis for developing a cheap, efficient, and flexible sensor for trace FA detection.