Authors: Dominik Wacht, Mauro David, Hermann Detz, Bettina Baumgartner, and Bernhard Lendl.
Mid-infrared attenuated total reflection (ATR) spectroscopy is a powerful tool for in situ monitoring of various processes. Mesoporous silica, an extensively studied material, has already been applied in sensing schemes due to its high surface area and tunable surface chemistry. However, its poor chemical stability in aqueous solutions at pH values higher than 8 and strong absorption below 1250 cm−1 limits its range of applications. To circumvent these problems, a mesoporous zirconia coating on ATR crystals was developed. Herein, the synthesis, surface modification, and characterization of ordered mesoporous zirconia films on Si wafers and Si-ATR crystals are presented. The modified coating was applied in sensing schemes using aromatic and aliphatic nitriles in aqueous solution as organic pollutants. The mesoporous zirconia coating shows strong chemical resistance when kept in alkaline solution for 72 h. The success of surface modification is confirmed using Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR) spectroscopy and contact angle measurements. Benzonitrile and valeronitrile in water are used as model analytes to evaluate the enrichment performance of the film. The experimental results are fitted using Freundlich isotherms, and enrichment factors of 162 and 26 are calculated for 10 mg L−1 benzonitrile and 25 mg L−1 valeronitrile in water, respectively. Limits of detection of 1 mg L−1 for benzonitrile and 11 mg L−1 for valeronitrile are obtained. The high chemical stability of this coating allows application in diverse fields such as catalysis with the possibility of in situ monitoring using FT-IR spectroscopy.