In our bodies, a slight pH change causes remarkable activation or serious damage in the biological processes and continuously keeps biological homeostasis. Detection of such a slight pH change has been a constant demand in searching for unusual biological events. In this paper, we demonstrate a novel pH sensory system that has been achieved through a combination of charge neutralization by a slight pH change with aggregation-induced emission (AIE). We selected a cyano-functionalized oligo(phenylene-vinylene) (cyanoOPV) backbone for AIE and introduced ammonium-tethered boronic acid groups as a pH-dependent function. The self-assembling of these dyes (OPV-Cn) was readily achieved by pH-dependent charge neutralization at the neutral pH region. This sensory system showed unusually sensitive pH responsiveness in a narrow pH range. Moreover, this pH change was observed in a biologically important neutral pH region. We therefore believe that this system is broadly applicable to detect the slight pH change occurring in the biological events.
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