Due to a worldwide increased use of pharmaceuticals and, in particular, antibiotics, a growing number of these substance residues now contaminate natural water resources and drinking supplies. This triggers a considerable demand for low-cost, high-sensitivity methods for monitoring water quality. Since many biological substances exhibit strong and characteristic absorption features at wavelengths shorter than 300 nm, UV spectroscopy presents a suitable approach for the quantitative identification of such water-contaminating species. However, current UV spectroscopic devices often show limited light-matter interaction lengths, demand sophisticated and bulky experimental infrastructure which is not compatible with microfluidics, and leave large fractions of the sample analyte unused. Here, we introduce the concept of UV spectroscopy in liquid-filled anti-resonant hollow core fibers, with large core diameters and lengths of approximately 1 m, as a means to overcome such limitations. This extended light-matter interaction length principally improves the concentration detection limit by two orders of magnitude while using almost the entire sample volume-that is three orders of magnitude smaller compared to cuvette based approaches. By integrating the fibers into an optofluidic chip environment and operating within the lowest experimentally feasible transmission band, concentrations of the application-relevant pharmaceutical substances, sulfamethoxazole (SMX) and sodium salicylate (SS), were detectable down to 0.1 µM (26 ppb) and 0.4 µM (64 ppb), respectively, with the potential to reach significantly lower detection limits for further device integration.
Nissen, M., Doherty, B., Hamperl, J., Kobelke, J., Weber, K., Henkel, T., & Schmidt, M. A. (2018). UV absorption spectroscopy in water-filled antiresonant hollow core fibers for pharmaceutical detection. Sensors (Switzerland), 18(2). https://doi.org/10.3390/s18020478