Ni/MWCNT-based electrochemical sensor for fast detection of phenol in wastewater


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In a paper published in NANO, researchers from the Harbin Institute of Technology have discovered a low cost and non-enzymatic phenol sensor that exhibits high sensitivity, good selectivity, reproducibility, and stability which has potential application in phenol detection in discharged wastewater.

Phenol as one of the recalcitrant organic contaminants is universal in wastewater. From the perspective of controlling environmental pollutants it is meaningful and desirable for us to monitor and control phenol pollutant.

Electrochemical sensor for phenol detection as an alternative technique has potential application due to its unique superiority such as portability, low-cost, convenience for handling, real-time monitoring, low maintenance and fast response. The electrode material in electrochemical sensor played a dominant role in enhancing phenol-sensing performance by increasing electron-oxidation current of phenol.

Consequently, it is crucial to screen out appropriate electrode material with high sensitivity, good selectivity, and stability for electrochemical detection of phenol. The transitional metal Ni has wide application in electrocatalyzing organic substances due to excellent catalytic activity and abundant reserves. However, Ni nanoparticle is inclined to aggregation due to its large specific surface energy, leading to decrease in active sites and catalytic activity loss.

Multi-walled carbon nanotube (MWCNT) with unique 1D structure, outstanding electrical and mechanical properties can be used as scaffold to anchor Ni nanoparticle for preventing Ni nanoparticle from aggregation, but also enhancing electron transfer rate, thus improving phenol sensing performance. This Ni/MWCNT-based electrochemical sensor has potential application in phenol detection in discharged wastewater.

The Harbin Institute of Technology team is now exploiting innovative strategies to further improve phenol-sensing performance such as enhancing sensitivity, lowering detection limit, and widening detection range while decreasing cost in the meantime.


The additional co-authors of the paper are Yajing Wang, Jiankang Wang, Chenyu Liu, Taiping Xie, Qihuang Deng, Zhaohua Jiang.

This work was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 51571076), Open Project of State Key Laboratory of Urban Water Resource and Environment of Harbin Institute of Technology (No. HCK201716).

Corresponding author for this study in Nano is Zhongping Yao, [email protected]

For more insight into the research described, readers are invited to access the paper on NANO.


Caption: A schematic illustration of Ni/MWCNT-based elctrochemical sensor for phenol detection. Ni nanoparticles uniformly dispersed on MWCNT surface by electroless plating method provide more accessible active sites for phenol adsorption and electrooxidation; in addition, the superior conductivity of MWCNT increases electron transfer rate on electrode interface and then enhances response sensitivity. These factors endow it with high sensitivity, fast response and thus potential application for phenol detection in discharged wastewater.

NANO is an international peer-reviewed monthly journal for nanoscience and nanotechnology that presents forefront fundamental research and new emerging topics. It features timely scientific reports of new results and technical breakthroughs and publishes interesting review articles about recent hot issues.

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