ligands&coordination complexes / Alfa Chemistry
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Sensing Applications

There has been an explosion of interest in the areas of sensor technology and their applications. Particularly promising are devices based on the use of luminescence materials as molecular reporters. An increasingly important class of sensor materials is luminescent coordination complexes, especially those transition metal complexes (such as Ru, Os, Re, Rh, and Ir complexes). They receive much attention for their excellent properties.

Analysis Strategies

There are several basic strategies used in coordination complex-assisted luminescence sensing. These strategies are as follows:

  • Specific bimolecular deactivation of a luminescent complex excited state by the analyte with a concomitant change in emission intensity or lifetime.
  • Reaction of the luminescent complexes with the analyte to yield a species with different luminescence properties. Depending on the degree of variation of certain properties, the analyte can be quantified.
  • A portion of the luminescent complexes that reacts with the analyte is established and then quenched or the luminescent properties are altered.


In the context of sensing, coordination complexes have unique advantages that make them suitable for sensing applications. These advantages are as follows:

  • High luminescence quantum yield;
  • Long phosphorescence lifetime (hundreds of nanoseconds to tens of microseconds) that allows their emission to be distinguished from a fluorescent background;
  • Large Stokes shift for effective discrimination of excitation and emission wavelengths;
  • Sensitivity of their emissive properties to subtle changes in the local environment;
  • Modular synthesis that allows facile synthesis of analogues for fine-tuning of their chemical and/or photophysical properties.

Alfa Chemistry discusses the application of coordination complexes in sensing from the following aspects:

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