Mechanistic insights into the luminescent sensing of organophosphorus chemical warfare agents and simulants using trivalent lanthanide complexes

Genevieve Dennison, Martin Johnston

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    39 Citations (Scopus)


    Organophosphorus chemical warfare agents (OP CWAs) are potent acetylcholinesterase inhibitors that can cause incapacitation and death within minutes of exposure, and furthermore are largely undetectable by the human senses. Fast, efficient, sensitive and selective detection of these compounds is therefore critical to minimise exposure. Traditional molecular-based sensing approaches have exploited the chemical reactivity of the OP CWAs, whereas more recently supramolecular-based approaches using non-covalent interactions have gained momentum. This is due, in part, to the potential development of sensors with second-generation properties, such as reversibility and multifunction capabilities. Supramolecular sensors also offer opportunities for incorporation of metal ions allowing for the exploitation of their unique properties. In particular, trivalent lanthanide ions are being increasingly used in the OP CWA sensing event and their use in supramolecular sensors is discussed in this Minireview. We focus on the fundamental interactions of simple lanthanide systems with OP CWAs and simulants, along with the development of more elaborate and complex systems including those containing nanotubes, polymers and gold nanoparticles. Whilst literature investigations into lanthanide-based OP CWA detection systems are relatively scarce, their unique and versatile properties provide a promising platform for the development of more efficient and complex sensing systems into the future. Luminescent sensors: A short overview is presented of the developments in the sensing of organophosphorus chemical warfare agents and simulants based on modulation of trivalent lanthanide ion luminescence. From fundamental complexation studies through to incorporation into more complex systems. The Minireview examines the mechanisms of luminescence quenching reported in the literature providing a foundation on which future sensors could be based.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)6328-6338
    Number of pages11
    JournalChemistry-A European Journal
    Issue number17
    Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2015


    • chemical warfare agents
    • lanthanide
    • organophosphorus chemistry
    • sensors
    • supramolecular chemistry


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