Rapid and ultrasensitive colorimetric detection of mercury(II) by chemically initiated aggregation of gold nanoparticles

Yinji Chen, Li Yao, Yi Deng, Daodong Pan, Elaigwu Edward Ogabiela, Jinxuan Cao, Samuel B O Adeloju, Wei Chen

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34 Citations (Scopus)


The article describes a method for rapid and visual determination of Hg(II) ion using unmodified gold nanoparticles (Au-NPs). It involves the addition of Au-NPs to a solution containing Hg(II) ions which, however, does not induce a color change. Next, a solution of lysine is added which induces the aggregation of the Au-NPs and causes the color of the solution to change from wine-red to purple. The whole on-site detection process can be executed in less than 15 min. Other amines (ethylenediamine, arginine, and melamine) were also investigated with respect to their capability to induce aggregation. Notably, only amines containing more than one amino group were found to be effective, but a 0.4 μM and pH 8 solution of lysine was found to give the best results. The detection limits for Hg (II) are 8.4 pM (for instrumental read-out) and 10 pM (for visual read-out). To the best of our knowledge, this LOD is better than those reported for any other existing rapid screening methods. The assay is not interfered by the presence of other common metal ions even if present in 1000-fold excess over Hg(II) concentration. It was successfully applied to the determination of Hg(II) in spiked tap water samples. We perceive that this method provides an excellent tool for rapid and ultrasensitive on-site determination of Hg(II) ions at low cost, with relative ease and minimal operation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2147-2154
Number of pages8
JournalMicrochimica Acta
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Colorimetry
  • Gold nanoparticles
  • Visual inspection
  • Lysine-induced aggregation
  • Mercury-induced aggregation
  • Sensingmechanism investigation

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