Fluorescent Probes for Rapid Detection of Formaldehyde in Food

Abstract/Technology Overview

Formaldehyde in food has caused health concerns in the general public. To protect public health, governments and health organizations worldwide have established regulations and guidelines on it. However, formaldehyde has been illegally added to food for preservation and bleaching purposes. Gas chromatography and liquid chromatography are typical analytical methods for formaldehyde measurement, but they require expensive instruments and sophisticated operational skills, making them unsuitable for on-site detection. In collaboration with Guangdong Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau (GDCIQ) of China, PolyU’s fluorescent probes test is the first visual detection method for formaldehyde with excellent selectivity using a gold(III) complex-mediated three-component coupling reaction of resin-linked sterically bulky amines and fluorescent alkynes. This opens up a new direction for the development of rapid on-site detection of formaldehyde with diverse applications.

Technology Features, Specifications and Advantages

• A visual detection method for formaldehyde present in food or other medium

• No expensive instruments and sophisticated operational skills are required to conduct the test

• Short reaction time

• Exclusive formaldehyde selectivity

• Signal readout can be achieved by using LC–MS/MS analysis or with naked eyes

• Excellent tolerance in complex reaction mixtures amenable to food analysis

Potential Applications

The technology is a visual method for detecting formaldehyde in food. The testing reagents can be packaged in a testing kit for easy application. It is ideal for on-site food safety screening or inspection and front-line quality control, where the use of sophisticated analytical instrument is challenging. The technology can be further coupled with sample collection equipment for the detection of formaldehyde in the air.

Contact Person

Macy Huen


International Strategic Technology Alliance (ISTA)

Technology Category
  • Quality / Safety
  • Diagnostics
  • Biotech Research Reagents & Tools
Technology Readiness Level
  • TRL 3

Formaldehyde detection, fluorescent probe, food safety