Changes in fluorescence emission due to non-covalent analyte–fluorophore interactions in silica gel plates are studied and used as a general detection procedure for thin-layer chromatography (TLC). The presence of the analyte modifies the microenvironment of the fluorophore and thus changes the balance between radiative (kr) and non-radiative (knr) emission constants. A model is proposed for analyte–fluorophore induced electrostatic interactions, which depend on analyte polarizability and are responsible for fluorescence enhancements. As consequence of these induced interactions, the analyte creates an apolar environment that prevents non-fluorescent decay mechanisms, decreasing knr. On the other hand, the effect of an increase in refractive index on kr is investigated, as it contributes to some extent to fluorescence enhancements in silica gel medium. Changes in fluorescence emission should be regarded as a general property of fluorophores in the presence of analytes, and criteria that fluorophores should meet to be used as sensitive TLC probes are discussed here.
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