Rapid detection of organic biological agents in water is crucial in disease prevention, yet it currently relies on costly and time-consuming biochemical, bacteriological and viral identification techniques. In this proposal, we aim to develop a novel chemical sensor to detect organic biological agents, such as phospholipids and proteins, in an efficient manner. Taking into account the applicant’s experience in the synthesis and characterization of covalent organic frameworks (COFs), we envision using this relatively new class of materials. Luminescent COFs will be constructed so that the target analytes will form either (i) coordination bonds with metallated centers of organic building blocks, which has been previously demonstrated by the host lab in related monomeric systems, (ii) Meisenheimer complexes with free amines in proteins, or (iii) both of these two types of interactions. The interactions developed between the COFs and the analytes are expected to induce changes in the luminescence properties of the COFs, specifically cause fluorescence quenching due to the disturbance of continuous conjugation in the COFs. Once promising COF candidates have been identified and characterized, the materials will be coated on substrates and tested as sensors for phospholipids and proteins by dipping them in solutions of micelles, commercial proteins, or non-pathogenic bacteria. Sensor reversibility will be investigated by establishing suitable pH conditions, or introducing competitive binders. Full realization of this proposal relies on the applicant’s experience in COF synthesis and characterization, the host institution’s expertise in sensorics, surface science and electronic structure, and involvement of two secondment supervisors with detailed knowledge on surface photoemission and structural modeling of COFs. The fellowship will provide the candidate with new research competences, networking opportunities, teaching and outreach programming experience.
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