Colorimetric detection of mercury ions based on plasmonic nanoparticles

Jianjun Du, Lin Jiang, Qi Shao, Xiaogang Liu, Robert S. Marks, Jan Ma, Xiaodong Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The development of rapid, specific, cost-effective, and robust tools in monitoring Hg2+ levels in both environmental and biological samples is of utmost importance due to the severe mercury toxicity to humans. A number of techniques exist, but the colorimetric assay, which is reviewed herein, is shown to be a possible tool in monitoring the level of mercury. These assays allow transforming target sensing events into color changes, which have applicable potential for in-the-field application through naked-eye detection. Specifically, plasmonic nanoparticle-based colorimetric assay exhibits a much better propensity for identifying various targets in terms of sensitivity, solubility, and stability compared to commonly used organic chromophores. In this review, recent progress in the development of gold nanoparticle-based colorimetric assays for Hg2+ is summarized, with a particular emphasis on examples of functionalized gold nanoparticle systems with oligonucleotides, oligopeptides, and functional molecules. Besides highlighting the current design principle for plasmonic nanoparticle-based colorimetric probes, the discussions on challenges and the prospect of next-generation probes for in-the-field applications are also presented. Recent progress in the development of gold nanoparticle-based colorimetric assays for Hg2+ are summarized. The general design principle for nanoparticle-based colorimetric probes is highlighted, with a particular emphasis on the functionalization of nanoparticles with oligonucleotides, oligopeptides, and various functional molecules.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1467-1481
Number of pages15
Issue number9-10
StatePublished - 27 May 2013


  • biomolecules
  • colorimetric detection
  • mercury ion
  • plasmonic nanoparticles

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Biotechnology
  • General Materials Science
  • Biomaterials


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