Mercury, the silvery liquid formerly used in thermometers, is now known to be highly toxic. The worst of the toxins are organic mercury compounds, such as methylmercury.
Most previous analytical procedures for the detection of methylmercury were technically difficult and could only be carried out in a laboratory. A Spanish and German team has now developed a new approach to detect the poison rapidly, easily, and on the spot. As the scientists report in the journal Angewandte Chemie, it is possible to imagine a rapid test in which test strips are simply dipped into suspect samples.
Mercury enters the environment through slashing and burning of rain forests and the combustion of coal; production of chlorine and cement factories also release mercury. The toxicity of mercury is strongly dependent on the types of chemical compounds it is in. The main problem is that in nature, many mercury compounds are converted into particularly dangerous methylmercury, which is concentrated in the food chain and contaminates marine animals in particular. People who regularly eat contaminated fish suffer from complaints such as headaches, pain in the limbs, heart, circulatory, and autoimmune diseases, paralysis, and blindness. Heavy chronic poisoning is deadly.
A team headed by Ramón Martínez-Máñez at the Polytechnical University of Valencia (Spain) and Knut Rurack at the Federal Institute of Materials Research and Testing (Berlin, Germany) has now developed a rapid test for the detection of this toxin based on the fact that mercury compounds are crazy about sulfur atoms. The researchers put dye molecules into the channels of an articifical porous mineral. On the surface of the mineral, they attached sulfur-containing groups, which in turn are attached to organic molecules that are so bulky that they cover the pores of the mineral like lids, keeping the dye inside. If a methylmercury-containing sample is added, it latches onto the sulfur-containing groups and splits off the “lids” of the pores. This opens the pores and releases the dye.
The main advantage of this approach is its amplification effect: only a few methylmercury particles are enough to release a large number of dye molecules. This allows for simple visual detection of trace concentrations of the toxin, even in complex biological samples. Another advantage is that the test is highly selective for methylmercury; water-soluble inorganic mercury compounds are excluded, so they do not result in a coloration.
The researchers imagine a kind of test strip that can simply be dipped into a prepared sample, of fish for example, to determine if it is contaminated with methylmercury.
Author: Ramón Martínez-Máñez, Universidad Politécnica de Valencia (Spain), mailto:email@example.com
Title: The Determination of Methylmercury in Real Samples using Organically Capped Mesoporous Inorganic Materials Capable of Signal Amplification
Angewandte Chemie International Edition 2009, 48, No. 45, 8519–8522, doi: 10.1002/anie.200904243
Ramón Martínez-Máñez | Angewandte Chemie
The birth of a new protein
20.10.2017 | University of Arizona
Building New Moss Factories
20.10.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
20.10.2017 | Information Technology
20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research