Tale of two alkaloids: pH-controlled electrochemiluminescence for differentiation of structurally similar compounds

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Electrochemiluminescence (ECL) has increased in popularity as a result of its inherent advantages, including but not limited to portability, simplicity of use, and low reagent consumption. However, its significant advantages are often over shadowed as a result of its limited specificity. ECL emissions are intrinsically broad and lack the definition of other available analytical techniques. Furthermore, species with similar functional groups have almost identical electrochemical behavior and thus typically emit within approximately the same potential region. Within this contribution we have demonstrate the use of pH controlled ECL to prove the presence of two individual species within a mixed sample. Analysis at a single pH would not provide this information. We have illustrated the potential of this methodology to quantify scopolamine alongside sister tropane alkaloid atropine, a known ECL interferent. Previously the two alkaloids could not be distinguished from one another using a single technique which did not involve a separation strategy. pH controlled ECL is a simple approach to improve the specificity of a basic [Ru(bpy)3]2+ film based sensor. By exploiting molecular characteristics, such as pKa, we have been able to fine-tune our methodology to facilitate identification of analytes previously exhibiting indistinguishable ECL emission. Thus, by improving specificity, while maintaining operational simplicity and inexpensive design, we have been able to highlight the potential power of ECL for identification of structurally similar compounds. Further improvements of specificity, such as demonstrated within this contribution, will only further future applications of ECL sensors across a range of different fields.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2216-2223
Number of pages8
JournalAnalytical Chemistry
Issue number2
Early online date23 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jan 2020


  • electrochemiluminescence
  • ECL emissions
  • pH controlled electrochemiluminescence

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    • 1 Invited talk
    • 1 Oral presentation

    Electrochemical approaches for rapid crime scene scree

    Lynn Dennany (Speaker)

    24 Sep 201926 Sep 2019

    Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk

    Mixed Luminophore ECL for the Differentiation Between Analytes of Similar Chemical Structure

    Lynn Dennany (Speaker), Kelly Brown (Speaker) & Pamela Allan (Contributor)

    22 Aug 201925 Aug 2019

    Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation

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