A Critical Review on the Use of Molecular Imprinting for Trace Heavy Metal and Micropollutant Detection

Patrick Marcel Seumo Tchekwagep, Robert D. Crapnell, Craig E. Banks, Kai Betlem, Uwe Rinner, Francesco Canfarotta, Joseph W. Lowdon, Kasper Eersels, Bart van Grinsven, Marloes Peeters*, Jake McClements*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
97 Downloads (Pure)


Molecular recognition has been described as the “ultimate” form of sensing and plays a fundamental role in biological processes. There is a move towards biomimetic recognition elements to overcome inherent problems of natural receptors such as limited stability, high-cost, and variation in response. In recent years, several alternatives have emerged which have found their first commercial applications. In this review, we focus on molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs) since they present an attractive alternative due to recent breakthroughs in polymer science and nanotechnology. For example, innovative solid-phase synthesis methods can produce MIPs with sometimes greater affinities than natural receptors. Although industry and environmental agencies require sensors for continuous monitoring, the regulatory barrier for employing MIP-based sensors is still low for environmental applications. Despite this, there are currently no sensors in this area, which is likely due to low profitability and the need for new legislation to promote the development of MIP-based sensors for pollutant and heavy metal monitoring. The increased demand for point-of-use devices and home testing kits is driving an exponential growth in biosensor production, leading to an expected market value of over GPB 25 billion by 2023. A key requirement of point-of-use devices is portability, since the test must be conducted at “the time and place” to pinpoint sources of contamination in food and/or water samples. Therefore, this review will focus on MIP-based sensors for monitoring pollutants and heavy metals by critically evaluating relevant literature sources from 1993 to 2022.

Original languageEnglish
Article number296
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • biomimetics
  • environmental monitoring
  • heavy metals
  • molecularly imprinted polymers
  • sensors


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