In recent years squarines received attention as fluorescent labels. Their very promising spectral properties such as long wavelength absorption and emission, high extinction coefficients and quantum yields could lead novel sensing technologies. In this work newly synthesized fluoroinophores named bis[4-N-(1-aza-4,7,10,13-tetraoxacyclopentadecyl)-3,5-dihydroxyphenyl]squaraine, azacrown-1 and 2 bis[4-N-(1-aza-4,7,10,13,16-pentaoxacyclooctadecyl)-3,5-dihydroxyphenyl]squaraine, azacrown-2 have been used for sodium and potassium sensing in plasticized PVC matrix. The squaraine derivatives exhibited fluorescence emission based optical responses to sodium and potassium with a detection limit of 1.10(-9) M. The sensor compositions exhibited wide response ranges between 10(-9) and 10(-5) M Na+ or K+, and, therefore, may be an alternative method to flame emission spectroscopy. The sensor is fully reversible within the dynamic range and the response time is 3 min under batch conditions. Cross sensitivity to pH is negligible in the pH range of 6.2-7.3. Throughout fiber optic based studies a relative signal change of 54-56% has been achieved. The azacrown dyes have the advantage that they can be excited with long wavelength light and, are, therefore, LED compatible. The cross sensitivity of azacrown-1 and -2 to Ba2+ Ca2+ and NH4+ were also tested in separate solutions. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.