Silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) were successfully prepared in aqueous solution by a one-pot procedure based on a rapid microwave-assisted green approach. L-Cysteine acted as a capping agent in the process of AgNP formation. The structural and morphological characteristics of the L-cysteine-capped AgNPs were investigated by the UV-vis, CD, FL, FTIR, XRD, TEM and EDX analysis. It was found that the well-dispersed crystalline AgNPs were formed after irradiation for 90 s and had sphere-like morphology. Such strategy may facilitate new ways to the synthesis of other metal nanoparticles, such as Au, Pt and Pd. In addition, the synthesized AgNPs were developed as a platform for the detection of Hg(2+) and showed a high sensitivity on the order of 1×10(-8) M. This sensing system could discriminate Hg(2+) from a wide range of cations (Ca(2+), Ba(2+), Mn(2+), etc.). The selectivity and sensitivity of AgNPs indicated its potential use as a sensor for Hg(2+) detection in the ecosystems.