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The Chemical Educator

ISSN: 1430-4171 (electronic version)

Table of Contents

Abstract Volume 21 (2016) pp 104-107

Polyvinyl Alcohol Carbon Nanotube Sensor Electrode to Detect Catechol in the Presence of Ascorbic Acid and Detection of Phenol: An Environmental Concern

Justin Lee, Dolores Dodson, Lei Zhai, and Suzanne Kay Lunsford*,†

Wright State University, Department of Chemistry, 3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy., Dayton, OH 45435,;University of Central Florida, Nanoscience Technology Center, 12424 Research Parkway, Orlando Florida 32826
Received February 25, 2016. Accepted April 25, 2016.

Published: 20 May 2016

Abstract. Carbon electrodes coated with polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) dispersed multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) were prepared and compared to the bare carbon electrode as sensors for detecting catechol in presence of common interference and phenol. The voltammetry response of catechol on a functionalized CNT-PVA electrode was excellent compared to the traditional bare carbon electrode at a sweep rate of 100mV/s. Without prior separation, the voltammogram of catechol at the CNT-PVA electrode displayed more reversible behavior to detect catechol in the presence of common interference, ascorbic acid. The effect of the scan rate onthe CNT-PVA electrode performance showed that the detection process was diffusion controlled with a correlation coefficient approximately 1. Thus, the CNT-PVA electrode displayed simultaneous determination of catechol in the presence of ascorbic acid. The CNT-PVA electrode was also used to detect phenol since phenol has similar structure to catechol. The selectivity of the CNT-PVA electrode to detect phenol in acidic and basic conditions is observed. The Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) technique allowed for analysis of the PVA dispersed MWCNTs. The advantages of this environmental sensor was introduced into our undergraduate and graduate students curriculum to enhance their understanding of real-world analysis and challenges that may be encountered in sensor development.

Key Words: Laboratories and Demonstrations; instrumental analysis; carbon nanotube electrodes; polyvinyl alcohol; pyrocatechol; ascorbic acid; phenol; voltammetry (cyclic voltammetry and differential pulse voltammetry)

(*) Corresponding author. (E-mail:

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