An investigation into relative humidity measurement using an aluminosilicate sol-gel thin film as the active layer in an integrated optical Bragg grating refractometer

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Abstract

We have demonstrated that a planar integrated optical Bragg grating sensor chip, fabricated using a direct UV-writing approach, can perform as an all-optically accessed relative humidity sensor. Using a simple mesoporous silica thin film enabled operation across the range 0-100%RH, however a thickness decrease of 25% caused by hydrolytic degradation of the silica thin film resulted in a permanent decrease in sensitivity after 1-2 weeks use. Grafting the thin-film with aluminium oxide is shown here to prevent hydrolytic degradation with long-term sensitivity maintained. Aluminium oxide grafting offers the additional benefit of enhanced sensitivity, up to 3.5 times that of the silica analogue; the sensitivity of the aluminium oxide modified thin film device = 0.69 ± 0.05%RH/pm, in the range 0-60%RH within a gas flow system, whilst the sensitivity of the silica thin film sensor device = 2.47 ± 0.18%RH/pm. Long-term measurements, in static ambient lab conditions, were in excellent agreement with a commercial humidity sensor and also indicated that the thermal compensation afforded by the on-chip reference gratings was sufficient to prevent any drift in calibration. As with all humidity sensors, contamination of the sensor occurred. But for the aluminium oxide device, this was easily removed by rinsing with common organic solvents and the sensitivity was repeatedly and reproducibly restored. The device is accessed using optical fibre technology and is intrinsically safe in flammable environments. © 2013 The Authors.

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Wales, D. J., Parker, R. M., Gates, J. C., Grossel, M. C., & Smith, P. G. R. (2013). An investigation into relative humidity measurement using an aluminosilicate sol-gel thin film as the active layer in an integrated optical Bragg grating refractometer. Sensors and Actuators, B: Chemical, 188, 857–866. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.snb.2013.07.089

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