Ultrasensitive Ethene Detector Based on a Graphene–Copper(I) Hybrid Material

Ethene is a highly diffusive and relatively unreactive gas that induces aging responses in plants in concentrations as low as parts per billion. Monitoring concentrations of ethene is critically important for transport and storage of food crops, necessitating the development of a new generation of ultrasensitive detectors. Here we show that by functionalizing graphene with copper complexes biologically relevant concentrations of ethene and of the spoilage marker ethanol can be detected. Importantly, in addition these sensors provide us with important insights into the interactions between molecules, a key concept in chemistry. Chemically induced dipole fluctuations in molecules as they undergo a chemical reaction are harvested in an elegant way through subtle field effects in graphene. By exploiting changes in the dipole moments of molecules that occur upon a chemical reaction we are able to track the reaction and provide mechanistic insight that was, until now, out of reach.