A core-based intrinsic fiber-optic absorption sensor has been developed and tested for the detection of volatile organic compounds. The distal ends of transmitting and receiving fibers are connected by a small cylindrical section of an optically clear silicone rubber. The silicone rubber acts both as a light pipe and as a selective membrane into which the analyte molecules can diffuse. The sensor has been used to detect volatile organics (trichloroethylene, 1,1-dichloroethylene, and benzene) in both aqueous solutions and in the vapor phase or headspace. Absorption spectra obtained in the near-infrared (near-IR) provide qualitative and quantitative information about the analyte. Water, which has strong broad-band absorption in the near-IR, is excluded from the spectra because of the hydrophobic properties of the silicone rubber. The rate-limiting step is shown to be the diffusion through the Nernstian boundary layer surrounding the sensor and not the diffusion through the silicone polymer. The rate of analyte diffusion into the sensor, as measured by the <i>t</i><sub>90</sub> values (the time required for the sensor to reach 90% of the equilibrium value), is 30 min for measurements in aqueous solutions and approximately 3 min for measurements made in the headspace. The limit of detection obtained with this sensor is approximately 1.1 ppm for trichloroethylene in an aqueous solution.
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