Metal-organic frameworks combined with mid-infrared spectroscopy for the trace analysis of phosphates in water

Authors: Felix Frank, Bettina Baumgartner, and Bernhard Lendl.

Detecting traces of phosphates in water is critical for monitoring water quality in aquatic ecosystems. Mid-infrared techniques are effective for label-free and quick measurements in at-line or in-line applications, but sensitivity is limited due to high water absorption. To combat this, preconcentration schemes combined with evanescent field spectroscopy can be used to enrich the analyte in the probed volume and thereby increasing sensitivity. Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) are versatile materials with defined porosity and tuneable chemistry, which make them ideal for selective adsorption of target molecules. In this study, an NH2-MIL-88B(Fe) (= Fe3O(NH2-BDC)3) MOF-based enrichment layer was prepared on a diamond attenuated total reflection (ATR) crystal for in situ Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopic measurements of ortho-phosphates in water. A workflow for single-use enrichment layers was established, and an automated flow system was used to apply aqueous phosphate solutions. Using internal referencing and compensating for variation in MOF film depositions, phosphate analysis reproducibility increased from 74% to 94%. The Langmuir adsorption model was used to derive a limit of detection (LOD) of 0.18 mg L-1 phosphorus in water. Overall, this work demonstrates the effectiveness of NH2-MIL-88B(Fe) MOFs as enrichment layers for aqueous phosphate sensing. Our results provide a promising avenue for the development of sensitive and selective sensors for environmental and biomedical applications.