Metal–organic frameworks (MOFs) with ratiometric sensing properties are desirable for many applications due to their intrinsic self-calibration. We report the re-assessment of the sensing properties of a MOF, originally reported as containing europium(III) and 2-hydroxyterephtalic acid, and having fluorescent ratiometric iron(III) sensing properties. Synchrotron single-crystal X-ray diffraction and proton nuclear magnetic resonance (1H NMR) spectroscopy revealed that the MOF is composed of 2-methoxyterephthalate, not 2-hydroxyterephthalate as originally reported. We found that the MOF exhibits a sensor turn-off response towards Fe3+ ion concentrations in the range 0.5–3.7 ppm (band 425 nm), and a turn-on response towards a decrease of pH from 5.4 to 3.0 (band 375 nm), both resulting from the addition of acidic Fe3+ salt solution to a MOF suspension. Thus, the ratiometric sensing properties and the originally proposed mechanism no longer apply; our work reveals a dynamic quenching mechanism for the fluorescence turn-off response due to the presence of Fe3+ ions, and a ligand protonation mechanism for the turn-on response to a decrease in pH. Our work highlights the importance of a thorough investigation of the structure of any newly synthesized MOF, and, in the case of potential sensors, their selectivity and any environmental effects on their sensing behavior.
- Analytical chemistry
- Materials chemistry