Analytica Chimica Acta 412 (2000) 63–68

An electrochemical sensor based on a clay-coated screen-printed electrode for the determination of arbutin Ying Shih a , Jyh-Myng Zen b,∗ a

Department of Applied Cosmetology, Hung-Kuang Institute of Technology, Taichung 433, Taiwan b Department of Chemistry, National Chung-Hsing University, Taichung 402, Taiwan

Received 3 August 1999; received in revised form 13 December 1999; accepted 19 December 1999

Abstract A preanodized clay-coated screen-printed electrode (CCSPE) is used for the determination of arbutin (hydroquinone-␤-Dglucopyranoside) in cosmetic bleaching products by square-wave voltammetry. The preanodization process exhibits a marked enhancement in the current response of arbutin at the CCSPE. Compared to the performance at a preanodized SPE, the coating of clay was found to further improve the sensitivity and reproducibility. Under optimized conditions, the linear range for arbutin detection is up to 90 ␮M (correlation coefficient=0.999) in pH 10.0 ammonium buffer with a detection limit of 0.18 ␮M (S/N=3). The electrode can be either disposable or reused since renewal provides good reproducible surfaces. Quantitative analysis was performed by standard addition for the arbutin content in commercial available cosmetic bleaching products. © 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved. Keywords: Arbutin; Clay; Screen-printed electrode; Cosmetic bleaching products

1. Introduction Arbutin (hydroquinone-␤-D-glucopyranoside), as shown in Fig. 1, is a hydroquinone glycoside and is the active component of the crude drug uvae ursi folium. Arbutin can prevent serious sunburn caused by an accumulation of melanin in subcutaneous tissue produced via a tyrosinase-catalyzed metabolic pathway [1–3]. Tyrosinase is the essential enzyme for melanin formation. The depigmenting effect of arbutin has been reported to reduce cellular tyrosinase activity without changing the cell viability [1]. Arbutin is highly water-soluble and has been used in many skin whitening and depigmenting cosmetics. In ∗ Corresponding author. Fax: +886-4-2862547. E-mail address: [email protected] (J.-M. Zen)

order to adapt dosing and to verify compliance, an official assay method for the analysis of arbutin in commercial bleaching products and skin lighteners is needed. However, so far only one method using a liquid chromatographic (LC) method with diode array detection for separating 13 phenolic compounds, including arbutin, is reported [4]. We report here a simple method for the determination of arbutin using a clay-coated screen-printed electrode (CCSPE). The electroanalytical detection in conjunction with a disposable electrode has many inherent advantages [5–8]. It is well known that the preanodization of carbon electrodes has great influence on the electron transfer reaction [9–11]. Indeed, we previously reported a sensitive electrochemical method for the determination of kojic acid using a preanodized SPE [12]. The enhancement of sensitivity on a prean-

0003-2670/00/$ – see front matter © 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved. PII: S 0 0 0 3 - 2 6 7 0 ( 0 0 ) 0 0 7 2 5 - X


Y. Shih, J.-M. Zen / Analytica Chimica Acta 412 (2000) 63–68

odized SPE is based on the direct interaction of kojic acid through hydrogen bonding with the surface functional group >C==O generated during preanodization. Meanwhile, a sensitive and selective voltammetric method for the determination of dopamine and uric acid using a preanodized clay-modified electrode was also reported by our group [13]. Note that the clay used is nontronite, in which at least half of aluminum is replaced by iron [14]. A preanodization procedure can convert the iron in nontronite into a higher oxidation state and exerts a strong complexing force on dopamine and uric acid. Since the preanodization process exhibits a marked improvement in the performance of SPE and clay-modified electrodes through different mechanisms, in this paper, we combine the two interesting concepts mentioned earlier by preparing a CCSPE for the determination of arbutin. The optimal experimental conditions, such as, pH, clay composition, preanodization potential, preanodization time, preconcentration time, and square-wave (SW) parameters, were thoroughly investigated. The CCSPE is then applied to the direct determination of arbutin in several cosmetic products.

ing electrode, an Ag/AgCl reference electrode (Model RE-5, BAS), and a platinum wire auxiliary electrode. Since dissolved oxygen did not interfere with the anodic reaction, no deaeration was performed. The SPE was fabricated using carbon inks (Acheson, Japan) and printed in a group of 16 (with a 1 mm gap between each) onto a polypropylene (PP) base. Each electrode consisted of an 8 mm×2.5 mm working area with a 17 mm×1.5 mm connecting strip. In the preparation of the CCSPE, the clay film was prepared by coating 30 ␮l of the clay colloid (0.1 wt.% in water) onto a SPE surface and dried at 50◦ C for 30 min. The CCSPE was equilibrated for several minutes in the test solution containing arbutin to attain proper electrode/electrolyte interface before measurement. SW voltammograms were performed by scanning the potential from 0.0 to 0.9 V at a SW frequency of 15 Hz and SW amplitude of 60 mV. At a step height of 4 mV, the effective scan rate is 60 mV/s. The arbutin quantitative was achieved by measuring the peak current of the oxidation peak after background subtraction. A stock solution was prepared by dissolving 272.3 mg of arbutin in 100 ml of water. An aliquot was diluted to the appropriate concentrations with 0.05M, pH 10.0 ammonium buffer before actual analysis. For the analytical estimation, the test cream (0.5 g) was first dissolved in 50 ml of water. After thorough mixing, the homogeneous solution was diluted with 0.05M, pH 10.0 ammonium buffer by a factor of 1/10 or 3/100 (v/v), then used for routine analysis. The standard addition method was used to evaluate the content of arbutin in real samples.

2. Experimental

3. Results and discussion

Arbutin (Sigma) and all other compounds (ACScertified reagent grade) were used without further purification. Standard clay mineral, nontronite (SWa-1, ferruginous smectite), was obtained from the Source Clay Minerals Repository (University of Missouri, MO, USA). Aqueous solutions were prepared with doubly distilled deionized water. Electrochemical measurements were performed on a Bioanalytical Systems (West Lafayette, IN, USA) BAS-50W electrochemical analyzer. A BAS VC-2 electrochemical cell was employed in these experiments. The three-electrode system consisted of the CCSPE work-

3.1. Voltammetric behavior

Fig. 1. Molecular structure of arbutin.

Fig. 2 demonstrates the effect of preanodization on both the SPE and CCSPE in the determination of arbutin by SW voltammetry (SWV). As can be seen, much smaller anodic peaks for 50 ␮M arbutin were observed for both the bare SPE (curve a) and CCSPE (curve b). A clear increase in anodic peak current was observed for the preanodized SPE (curve c) and CCSPE (curve d) with a relatively better sensitivity at the CCSPE. Apparently, the preanodization process provides the CCSPE an even stronger accumulation

Y. Shih, J.-M. Zen / Analytica Chimica Acta 412 (2000) 63–68


Fig. 2. Square-wave voltammograms for 50 ␮M arbutin in pH 10.0 ammonium buffer at (a) bare SPE, (b) bare CCSPE, (c) the preanodized SPE, and (d) the preanodized CCSPE. Pa =2.0 V, ta =60 s.

force to arbutin than the SPE. The anodization of the SPE is known to improve the electrochemical activity by lowering the overpotential and increasing the wettability. The main effect was reported to be due to the generation the hydrophilic electron transfer-mediating groups [9–11]. In the case of the CCSPE, iron in the iron-rich nontronite clay can be converted to a higher oxidation state on anodization. According to Pearson’s principle, hard acids prefer to bind to hard bases, and soft acids prefer to bind to soft bases [15]. Lighter transition metals in higher oxidation state are hard acid, while arbutin is apparently a hard base. Therefore, a substantial interaction between arbutin and clay can explain the further increase in peak current. The transport characteristic of arbutin at the CCSPE was further investigated. The current response obtained in linear scan voltammetry at the CCSPE was found linearly proportional to the scan rate, which indicated that the process was adsorption-controlled. More evidence for the adsorptive behavior of arbutin was demonstrated by the fact that almost the same voltammetric signal was observed when the CCSPE was transferred to a medium containing only supporting electrolyte after being used in measuring an arbutin solution. This result further confirms a strong complexing force between arbutin and the CCSPE.

Fig. 3. The effect of the composition clay in preparing the CCSPE to the detection of 50 ␮M arbutin. Pa =2.0 V; ta =60 s; preconcentration time=5 s. SW parameters: amplitude, 60 mV; frequency, 20 Hz; step height, 4 mV.

3.2. Analytical characterization Fig. 3 shows the effect of the clay content in preparing the CCSPE to the electrode performance in the detection of arbutin. As can be seen, 30 ␮l of the clay colloid (0.1 wt.% in water) was found an optimum volume for the coating process, this amount was thus used in all subsequent studies. Since the preanodization process is essential to the determination of arbutin, the influence of the preanodization potential (Pa ) and preanodization time (ta ) were studied in detail. As can be seen in Fig. 4A, the peak current is constant up to 1.6 V and increases further very steeply until 2.2 V for a ta of 60 s. This is because the irreversible oxidation of SPE starts around 1.6 V, introducing the >C==O functional groups on the surface. The increase in peak current can be explained by a substantial chemical interaction between arbutin and the >C==O functional group present. The peak current reaches a maximum around 2.2 V, which is due to saturation of >C==O functional group on the surface during preanodization. Similarly, ta also has a tremendous influence on the peak current as shown in Fig. 4B. The peak current


Y. Shih, J.-M. Zen / Analytica Chimica Acta 412 (2000) 63–68

Fig. 4. Effect of (A) Pa and (B) ta on the peak current for 50 ␮M arbutin obtained at the CCSPE. Other conditions are as in Fig. 3.

increases as ta increases and starts to level off at around 80 s. Since Pa =2.2 V results in poor reproducibility in arbutin detection, Pa =2.0 V and ta =60 s were chosen for the subsequent work. Both the electrode and the detection aspects should be considered to assess the optimum conditions for the determination of arbutin. As natural arbutin was very easily hydrolyzed to hydroquinone and sugar by dilute acid, the effect of pH on the voltammetric response of the preanodized CCSPE for 50 ␮M arbutin was studied in basic environments. As can be seen in Fig. 5, the current response starts to increase rapidly in more basic medium and shows an optimum performance at around pH 10. Since the working CCSPE was in anodized condition, the effect of the preconcentration time at open circuit on the SW response for arbutin was studied next. Note that the solution was under stirring during open circuit preconcentration to assure effective adsorption. The results obtained are shown in Fig. 6. The peak current increases as the preconcentration time increases and starts to level off at around 5 s. It takes longer time for the peak current to level off for a lower concentration of arbutin. This phenomenon is as expected and further confirms the adsorption-controlled behavior of the preanodized CCSPE. Therefore, in order to increase the sensitivity of detection, a longer time is needed for the lower con-

Fig. 5. Effect of pH on the peak current of 50 ␮M arbutin obtained at the preanodized CCSPE. Other conditions are as in Fig. 3.

centration of arbutin. For convenience, a preconcentration time of 5 s was used in the subsequent work. The peak current obtained in SW voltammetry is dependent on various instrumental parameters such as SW amplitude, SW frequency, and step height. These

Fig. 6. The effect of preconcentration time at open circuit on the SWV response for 30 ␮M arbutin at the preanodized CCSPE. Other conditions are as in Fig. 3.

Y. Shih, J.-M. Zen / Analytica Chimica Acta 412 (2000) 63–68

Fig. 7. The results of 10 successive repetitive measurement-regeneration cycles for the detection of 50 ␮M arbutin uses the preanodized CCSPE and SPE. Other conditions are as in Fig. 3.

parameters are interrelated and effect the response, but here only the general trends will be examined. It was found that these parameters had little effect on the peak potential. When the SW amplitude was var-


ied in the range of 10–100 mV, the peak currents increased with increasing amplitude until 60 mV. However, when the amplitude was greater than 60 mV the peak width increases at the same time. Hence, 60 mV was chosen as the SW amplitude. The step height together with the frequency defines the effective scan rate. Hence, an increase with either the frequency or the step height results in an increase of the effective scan rate. The response for arbutin increases with SW frequency; however, above 20 Hz the peak current was unstable and obscured by a large residual current. By maintaining the frequency as 20 Hz, the effect of step height was studied. At a step height of 4 mV, the response is more accurately recorded. Overall, the optimized parameters can be summarized as follows: SW frequency, 20 Hz; SW amplitude, 60 mV; step height 4 mV. The effective scan rate is 80 mV/s. Under optimal conditions, the SWV current response is linearly dependent on the concentration of arbutin up to 90 ␮M in pH 10.0 ammonium buffer with slope (␮A/␮M), intercept (␮A), and correlation coefficient of 0.055, 0.078, and 0.999, respectively. The detection limit is 0.18 ␮M (S/N=3). Although the main advantage of CCSPE is its low cost and so can be considered as disposable, the reproducibility of the preanodized CCSPE is also studied. The CCSPE can be easily renewed simply by repeatedly scanning in the same potential range in pH 2.0 citrate buffer

Table 1 Determination of arbutin in bleaching products with the preanodized CCSPE Bleaching products

Original value (␮M)

Spike (␮M)

Detected value after spike (␮M)

Recovery (%)

Cream #1a,b


5 10 15 20 25

13.16±0.16 18.67±0.38 23.97±0.52 28.06±0.22 32.97±0.34

96.00±2.19 103.10±4.83 104.06±3.97 98.50±1.82 98.44±1.79

Cream #2a,c


5 10 15 20 25

11.38±0.18 16.78±0.27 21.31±0.19 27.35±0.09 31.90±0.52

99.40±5.68 103.70±3.48 99.33±1.94 104.69±1.19 101.96±2.26

Cream #3a,b


5 10 15 20 25

11.30±0.23 15.71±0.62 21.77±0.06 26.36±0.63 29.89±0.71

103.00±4.60 95.60±6.20 104.13±0.39 101.10±3.15 94.96±2.84


Number of determination: 3. Dilution factor: 1/1000. c Dilution factor: 3/10000. b


Y. Shih, J.-M. Zen / Analytica Chimica Acta 412 (2000) 63–68

solution after being used in measuring arbutin. As shown in Fig. 7, the results of 10 successive repetitive measurement-regeneration cycles showed a small coefficient of variation of 2.09% for the detection of 50 ␮M arbutin using the preanodized CCSPE. The response at the preanodized SPE was found to gradually decrease with the regeneration cycles. So, the electrode renewal gives a good reproducibility surface for the preanodized CCSPE only. Overall, compared to SPE, the CCSPE not only has a lower limit of detection but also can be reused. 3.3. Sample analysis The preanodized CCSPE was applied to the measurement of arbutin in commercially available cosmetic bleaching products. The accuracy of the method was determined by its recovery on spiking. Three commercial cosmetic products containing arbutin were spiked with arbutin standard solution at a concentration of 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25 ␮M. Note that virtually the same recoveries were observed when the spiking step was applied before or after the sample preparation steps. As shown in Table 1, the recoveries of arbutin from the cosmetic matrices were satisfactory with values ranging from 95 to 105%, confirming that quantitative and reproducible results can be obtained with this method. The preanodized CCSPE is easy to construct and hence mass production is feasible. Moreover, the stability and precision of the preanodized CCSPE makes it a convenient

method for routine analysis of arbutin in commercially available cosmetic products.

Acknowledgements The authors gratefully acknowledge financial support from the National Science Council of the Republic of China under Grants NSC 89-2113-M-005-019 and NSC 89-2113-M-241-004. References [1] K. Maeda, M. Fukuda, J. Soc. Cosmet. Chem. 42 (1991) 361. [2] Y. Niwa, H. Akamatsu, Fragrance J. 14 (1995) 127. [3] K. Maeda, M. Fukuda, J. Pharmacol. Exp. Ther. 276 (1996) 765. [4] P.B. Andrade, A.R.F. Carvalho, R.M. Seabra, M.A. Ferreira, J. Agric. Food Chem. 46 (1998) 968. [5] S.D. Sprules, J.P. Hart, Analyst 119 (1994) 253. [6] J.P. Hart, I.C. Hartley, Analyst 119 (1994) 259. [7] A. Jager, U. Bilitewski, Analyst 119 (1994) 1251. [8] M.A. Carsol, G. Volpe, M. Mascini, Talanta 44 (1997) 2151. [9] J. Wang, T. Martinez, Electroanalysis 1 (1989) 167. [10] T. Wielgos, A. Fitch, Electroanalysis 2 (1990) 449. [11] P. Labbe, B. Brahimi, G. Reverdy, C. Mousty, R. Blankespoor, A. Gautier, C. Degrand, J. Electroanal. Chem. 378 (1994) 103. [12] Y. Shih, J.-M. Zen, Electroanalysis 11 (1999) 229. [13] J.-M. Zen, P.-J. Chen, Anal. Chem. 69 (1997) 5087. [14] W.F. Jaynes, J.M. Bigham, Clay. Clay Miner. 35 (1987) 440. [15] J. March, Advance Organic Chemistry, 4th Edition, Wiley, New York, 1992, 261 pp.

An electrochemical sensor based on a clay-coated ...

Quantitative analysis was performed by standard addition for the arbutin content in commercial available .... bases, and soft acids prefer to bind to soft bases [15].

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