Bicinchoninic acid-based colorimetric chemosensor for detection of low concentrations of cyanide

Archana A. Biradar, Ankush V. Biradar, Tiffany Sun, Yung Chan, Xiaoxi Huang, Tewodros Asefa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Bicinchoninic acid (BCA) is reagent that is widely used to determine the concentration of proteins in solutions through the colored complex it forms with Cu(I) and the proteins. In this report, we present a new use for BCA, where a highly sensitive method for detection of cyanide ions in solutions by using Cu2+-BCA complex as the chemosensing agent is demonstrated. The detection of cyanide ions is achieved by taking advantage of the nucleophilic attack of the Cu2+-BCA complex by cyanide ions. Upon the addition of cyanide ions, the Cu2+-BCA complex undergoes transformations to free BCA via a series of equilibriums and, as a result, forms different Cu(II)-(BCA)x(CN)y species depending on the concentrations of cyanide ions in the solution. These different Cu(II)-(BCA)x(CN)y species, in turn, give different metal-to-ligand charge transfer electronic spectra and colors that are easily detectable both with naked eyes and UV-vis spectroscopy. As the cyanide ion concentration increases, the color of the solution containing the complexes changes from green to purple, red, yellow, and finally colorless, giving a corresponding blue shift in the absorption maxima on their UV-vis spectra. Through this process, the complexes enable detection of cyanide ions with a detection level of up to 0.06 ppm in solutions. Thus, this colorimetric technique based on Cu2+-BCA can make low concentrations of cyanide detectable, well before the concentrations possibly reach lethal amounts. Furthermore, the method is shown to give fast detection response with no interference from other anionic and cationic species and has the potential to be adopted for accurate and convenient analysis of cyanide ions in drinking water sources as well as industrial effluents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-119
Number of pages8
JournalSensors and Actuators, B: Chemical
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2 2016


  • BCA
  • Bicinchoninic acid
  • Chemosensor
  • Colorimetric sensor
  • Copper
  • Cyanide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Instrumentation
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films
  • Metals and Alloys
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Materials Chemistry

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