Functionalized gold nanoparticles for the detection of nitrates in water

  • S. Mura
  • G. Greppi
  • P. P. Roggero
  • E. Musu
  • D. Pittalis
  • A. Carletti
  • G. Ghiglieri
  • J. Irudayaraj
Original Paper


A rapid and sensitive colorimetric assay was developed using cysteamine modified gold nanoparticles for the direct detection of nitrates in water samples. Gold nanoparticles stabilized with citrate were modified with cysteamine that has excellent affinity for nitrates, and its capacity to capture nitrates was evaluated, in comparison with other anions. The presence of nitrates in water samples could be tracked by naked eye with a color variation of the colloidal suspension from red to gray, and these results were confirmed through ultraviolet–visible measurements within a nitrate concentration of 35 ppm. In field analysis was performed in underground water extracted from wells during the year 2012 in Arborea area (Italy), a nitrate vulnerable zone, and information of nitrate concentration in the range of the recommended nitrate level in water was studied. This simple assay can be used for onsite detection of nitrates in water without the need for skilled personnel, sample pretreatment or expensive instrumentation.


Nanoparticles Nitrates Ultraviolet–visible Colorimetric test kit Water 



This work was supported by a grant financed by RAS (Regione Autonoma della Sardegna, POR Sardegna FSE 2007-2013 L.R. 7/2007, IDRISK Project, Master and Back programme). Thanks to Porto Conte Ricerche, Sardegna ricerche, University of Sassari and Purdue University for the instruments and the help provided.

Supplementary material

13762_2013_494_MOESM1_ESM.jpg (1.7 mb)
UV–vis spectra of a) NaCl at different concentrations, and AuCyNPs after the addition of chlorides at different concentration, obtained in the range b) 240–340 nm and c) 400–700 nm. (JPEG 1749 kb)
13762_2013_494_MOESM2_ESM.jpg (1.7 mb)
UV–vis spectra of a) phosphates at different concentrations, and AuCyNPs after the addition of phosphates at different concentration, obtained in the range b) 240–340 nm and c) 400–700 nm. (JPEG 1784 kb)
13762_2013_494_MOESM3_ESM.jpg (1.6 mb)
UV–vis spectra of a) nitrates at different concentrations (in the inset different nitrates at 8,000 ppm), and AuCyNPs after the addition of nitrates at different concentration, obtained in the range b) 250–340 nm and c) 400–700 nm. (JPEG 1646 kb)


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Copyright information

© Islamic Azad University (IAU) 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. Mura
    • 1
  • G. Greppi
    • 2
  • P. P. Roggero
    • 1
  • E. Musu
    • 3
  • D. Pittalis
    • 1
    • 5
  • A. Carletti
    • 1
    • 5
  • G. Ghiglieri
    • 6
  • J. Irudayaraj
    • 4
  1. 1.Nucleo di Ricerca sulla DesertificazioneUniversità degli Studi di SassariSassariItaly
  2. 2.Dipartimento di Agraria, Lab. BionanotecnologieUniversità degli Studi di SassariSassariItaly
  3. 3.Laboratorio di Telemicroscopia IndustrialeSardegna RicerchePulaItaly
  4. 4.Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering and Bindley Bioscience CenterPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUnited States
  5. 5.Department of Science for Nature and Environmental ResourcesUniversity of SassariSassariItaly
  6. 6.Dipartimento di Scienze Chimiche e Geologiche, Laboratorio TeleGisUniversità degli Studi di CagliariCagliariItaly

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