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Physical Chemistry

Sensing Volatiles In Color

A gold-dicopper complex shifts its luminescence emission wavelength when exposed to VOCs

by Stephen K. Ritter
July 9, 2010 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 88, ISSUE 28

FAST GLOWING
Credit: J. Am. Chem. Soc.
Gold-dicopper complex quickly luminesces green when exposed to methanol vapor.

By pairing gold and copper, two Nevada chemists have created a new example of a vapochromic sensor in which a large change in luminescence occurs when volatile organic compounds trade places with ligands on the organometallic complex (J. Am. Chem. Soc., DOI: 10.1021/ja104585q). Christoph E. Strasser and Vincent J. Catalano of the University of Nevada, Reno, synthesized the colorless gold-dicopper complex by treating a gold N-heterocyclic carbene complex with two equivalents of a copper acetonitrile complex. When the solid is exposed to methanol vapor, one methanol molecule substitutes for two acetonitrile ligands per copper atom. This exchange prompts formation of gold-copper bonding interactions needed for the copper atoms to maintain their tetrahedral coordination geometry (shown). The result is a buckling of the complex's molecular structure and a luminescence change under ultraviolet light from blue to green. Exposing the green-emitting complex to acetonitrile reverses the process.

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Credit: J. Am. Chem. Soc.
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