An iridium(III) complex-based chemosensor for the detection of thiourea in living cells

Wanhe Wang, Zhen Zhen Dong, Chao Yang, Guodong Li, Yam Chi Tse, Chung Hang Leung*, Edmond Dik Lung Ma*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


The adverse effects that thiourea can induce in biological systems demand the development of new methods for its detection. In this work, we present a iridium(III) complex-based chemosensor (1) containing a recognition unit for thiourea. The reaction of the recognition unit with thiourea affects the long-lived excited states of the complex, leading to an enhancement of luminescence. Complex 1 showed a 3.3-fold enhanced luminescence in the presence of thiorea and a good linear relationship with thiourea ranging from 10 to 200 μM, with a limit of detection (LOD) of 3.85 μM. By using time-resolved emission spectroscopy (TRES), complex 1 could detect thiourea in the presence of interfering fluorescence. Moreover, complex 1 offers the capability to image thiourea in living HeLa cells. To our knowledge, complex 1 is the first iridium(III) complex-based sensor reported for imaging thiourea in living cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)374-379
Number of pages6
JournalSensors and Actuators B: Chemical
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Instrumentation
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films
  • Metals and Alloys
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Materials Chemistry

User-Defined Keywords

  • Chemosensor
  • Iridium(III) complex
  • Luminescence
  • Thiourea


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