Blue light-emitting oligotriphenylene nanofibers are synthesized by oxidizing triphenylene using ferric chloride. By adjusting the monomer concentration, the acid used, and the temperature employed, the average diameter and length of the nanofibers can be readily tuned from 50 to 200 nm and 0.5 to 5 μm, respectively. Structural characterization, electrical conductivity, thermal stability, and fluorescence of oligotriphenylene, along with a proposed nanofiber formation mechanism, are presented. Both oligotriphenylene nanofiber dispersions and oligotriphenylene/polysulfone composite films are developed as fluorescent sensors for detecting traces of nitro-based explosives including nitromethane, nitrobenzene, and 2,4,6-trinitrophenol, as well as an electron-deficient metal ion, Fe(III). The sensors exhibit much better selectivity and sensitivity compared to conventional sensors, with detection limits down to 1.0 nm with a detection range covering ∼4 orders of magnitude. The detection mechanism of the fluorescent sensors is also disscussed.
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