Fluorescent sensors for the detection of chemical warfare agents

Mark Burnworth, Stuart J. Rowan*, Christoph Weder

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

230 Citations (Scopus)


Along with biological and nuclear threats, chemical warfare agents are some of the most feared weapons of mass destruction. Compared to nuclear weapons they are relatively easy to access and deploy, which makes them in some aspects a greater threat to national and global security. A particularly hazardous class of chemical warfare agents are the nerve agents. Their rapid and severe effects on human health originate in their ability to block the function of acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme that is vital to the central nervous system. This article outlines recent activities regarding the development of molecular sensors that can visualize the presence of nerve agents (and related pesticides) through changes of their fluorescence properties. Three different sensing principles are discussed: enzyme-based sensors, chemically reactive sensors, and supramolecular sensors. Typical examples are presented for each class and different fluorescent sensors for the detection of chemical warfare agents are summarized and compared.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7828-7836
Number of pages9
JournalChemistry - A European Journal
Issue number28
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Fluorescence
  • Nerve agents
  • Organophosphorus compounds
  • Pesticides
  • Sensors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)


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