Detection of Cd, Pb, and Cu in non-pretreated natural waters and urine with thiol functionalized mesoporous silica and Nafion composite electrodes

Wassana Yantasee, Busarakum Charnhattakorn, Glen E. Fryxell, Yuehe Lin, Charles Timchalk, R. Shane Addleman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


Electrochemical sensors have great potential for environmental monitoring of toxic metal ions in waters due to their portability, field-deployability and excellent detection limits. However, electrochemical sensors employing mercury-free approaches typically suffer from binding competition for metal ions and fouling by organic substances and surfactants in natural waters, making sample pretreatments such as wet ashing necessary. In this work, we have developed mercury-free sensors by coating a composite of thiol self-assembled monolayers on mesoporous supports (SH-SAMMS™) and Nafion on glassy-carbon electrodes. With the combined benefit of SH-SAMMS™ as an outstanding metal preconcentrator and Nafion as an antifouling binder, the sensors could detect 0.5 ppb of Pb and 2.5 ppb of Cd in river water, Hanford groundwater, and seawater with a minimal amount of preconcentration time (few minutes) and without any sample pretreatment. The sensor could also detect 2.5 ppb of Cd, Pb, and Cu simultaneously. The electrodes have long service times and excellent single and inter-electrode reproducibility (5% R.S.D. after 8 consecutive measurements). Unlike SAMMS™-carbon paste electrodes, the SAMMS™-Nafion electrodes were not fouled in samples containing albumin and successfully detected Cd in human urine. Other potentially confounding factors affecting metal detection at SAMMS™-Nafion electrodes were studied, including pH effect, transport resistance of metal ions, and detection interference. With the ability to reliably detect low metal concentration ranges without sample pretreatment and fouling, SAMMS™-Nafion composite sensors have the potential to become the next-generation metal analyzers for environmental and bio-monitoring of toxic metals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)55-63
Number of pages9
JournalAnalytica Chimica Acta
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jul 14 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Cd
  • Cu
  • Electrochemical sensor
  • Nafion
  • Natural water
  • Pb
  • Self-assembled monolayers on mesoporous supports
  • Thiol
  • Urine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Spectroscopy


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