We report a novel strategy for using gold nanoparticles capped with chitosan for sensing ions of heavy metals. Acidic anions (glutamate ions in our case) are expected to cap the nanoparticle surfaces similar to conventional methods of stabilization of gold nanoparticles by citrate ions. The polycationic nature of chitosan enables attachment of the polymer to the negatively charged gold nanoparticle surfaces through electrostatic interactions. Use of chitosan serves dual purpose of providing sufficient steric hindrance ensuring stability of the colloid and also to functionalize the nanoparticles for use as sensors. The well-documented chelating properties of chitosan and the sensitivity of the optical properties of gold nanoparticles to agglomeration have been employed to detect low concentrations of heavy metals ions (Zn2+and Cu2+) in water. A comparison of the optical absorption spectra of the colloidal suspension before and after exposure to metal ions is a good indicator of the concentration of the heavy metal ions. © 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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