FRET processes of bi-fluorophoric sensor material containing tetraphenylethylene donor and optical-switchable merocyanine acceptor for lead ion (Pb2+) detection in semi-aqueous media

Feng-Cheng Ho, Kuan-Hsiang Huang, Hung-Wei Cheng, Yi-Jing Huang, Pham Quoc Nhien, Chia-Hua Wu, Judy I. Wu, San-Yuan Chen, Hong-Cheu Lin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A novel aggregation-induced emission (AIE) structure containing a tetraphenylethene (TPE) unit covalently linked with a spiropyran (SP) unit was synthesized and investigated in semi-aqueous solutions with 90% water fraction. The open-form structure of red-emissive merocyanine (MC) unit combined with TPE unit was utilized as a bi-fluorophoric sensor to detect lead(II) ion, which could be transformed from the close-form structure of nonemissive SP unit upon UV exposure. Moreover, the TPE unit as an energy donor with the blue-green photoluminescence (PL) emission at 480 nm was combined with the MC unit as an energy acceptor with the red PL emission at 635 nm. Due to the Fo?rster resonance energy transfer (FRET) processes, the bi-fluorophoric sensor produced more efficient ratiometric PL behavior to induce a stronger red PL emission than that of the monofluorophoric MC unit. Hence, the PL sensor responses of the AIE bi-fluorophoric structure toward lead(II) ion could be further amplified via the FRET-OFF processes to turn off red PL emission of the coordinated MC acceptor and to recover blue-green PL emission of the TPE donor. Accordingly, the best LOD value for the AIE sensor detection toward Pb2+ was 0.27 ?M. The highest red MC emission with the optimum FRET process of AIE sensor could be utilized in cell viability tests to prove the non-toxic and remarkable bio-marker of AIE sensor to detect lead(II) ion in live cells. The developed FRET-OFF processes with ratiometric PL behavior of the bi-fluorophoric AIE sensor can be utilized for future chemo- and bio-sensor applications.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109238
Number of pages13
JournalDyes and Pigments
StatePublished - May 2021


  • Aggregation-induced emission (AIE)
  • Bi-fluorophoric sensor
  • Forster resonance energy transfer (FRET)
  • Optical-switchable

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