Res. Chem. Intermed.
, Vol. 27, No. 4,5, pp. 425–446 (2001)
Fluorescence resonance energy transfer sensors
D. J. S. BIRCH
and O. J. ROLINSKI
Photophysics Group, Department of Physics and Applied Physics, Strathclyde University,
Glasgow G4 0NG, Scotland, UK
Abstract—We describe the various implementations of uorescence resonance energy transfer with
respect to the kinetic design principles involved in uorescence lifetime sensors. Applications to
metal ion and glucose detection are discussed. The versatility and key developments for using time-
correlated single-photon counting in uorescence lifetime based sensing are illustrated.
Fluorescence lifetime studies have evolved from determination of the fundamental
photophysics of aromatic molecules in bulk solutions, which began in the 1960s, to
the encapsulation of molecular kinetics on the nm scale in porous sensor matrices
in order to detect analytes. This transition has led to the emergence of what is
starting to look like a new eld, namely, that of uorescence lifetime sensing.
The driving force behind uorescence lifetime sensing is the range of important
applications which span environmental studies, industry, biology and medicine. In
this article we concentrate on applications in metal ion sensing in aqueous media
and glucose sensing with respect to diabetes control, as these are fertile areas
which are of global importance. Moreover, the approach we describe is generic
and applicable to numerous other analytes, including other human metabolites.
Both metal ion and glucose sensing have a high degree of commonality in respect
of the measurement approach which we will describe. Alternative techniques,
for example, electrochemical techniques  have been widely used for trace
metal analysis, but suffer from contamination and a lack of suitability for remote
measurement. Similarly, glucose sensing electrodes  have been used in vivo,
but suffer from being unpleasant to use by virtue of being invasive. On the other
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