The accumulation of heavy metals in the human body and/or in the environment can be highly deleterious for mankind, and currently, considerable efforts have been made to develop reliable and sensitive techniques for their detection. Among the detection methods, chemical sensors appear as a promising technology, with emphasis on systems employing optically active nanofibers. Such nanofibers can be obtained by the electrospinning technique, and further functionalized with optically active chromophores such as dyes, conjugated polymers, carbon-based nanomaterials and nanoparticles, in order to produce fluorescent and colorimetric nanofibers. In this review we survey recent investigations reporting the use of optically active electrospun nanofibers in sensors aiming at the specific detection of heavy metals using colorimetry and fluorescence methods. The examples given in this review article provide sufficient evidence of the potential of optically electrospun nanofibers as a valid approach to fabricate highly selective and sensitive optical sensors for fast and low-cost detection of heavy metals.
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