Current trends in optical sensors, such as miniaturization, flexibility and enhanced sensitivity, are indicating a new chemical route for the development of advanced multifunctional materials for optical applications. Those chemical technologies, which can be more easily customized and allows the inclusion of multiple functionalities within a unique preparation step, are bound to be progressively more and more applied to the preparation of optical materials. In this perspective, the sol-gel technology certainly represents one of the most promising chemical strategies, thanks to numerous advantages mainly related to simplicity and mild operative conditions. It enables creating a glass-like porous structure at room temperature by a two-step acid or base catalyzed reaction involving hydrolysis and condensation, starting with metal alkoxides M(OR)4, which transforms into a rigid three-dimensional metal-oxide network (Brinker, 1990). The sol–gel process has been proved to be flexible enough for an efficient incorporation of organic polymer chains that can behave as flexible links between the metal-oxide domains in the inorganic network, in particular when they are bearing reactive groups that can be involved in the hydrolysis–condensation reactions. The resulting materials are known as organic–inorganic hybrids (Schmidt, 2000), also commonly designated as ceramers due to the combination of the properties of ceramics (high modulus, thermal stability and low coefficient of thermal expansion) with those of organic polymers (high ductility, molecular flexibility and low temperature processing). These materials are often also known as phase-interconnected nanocomposites because of the high level of interconnection between the two phases with domain phase sizes approaching the nanometer scale. Ceramers have a huge potential for application in a variety of advanced technologies (Eckert, 2001; Sanchez, 2011; Kickelkick, 2006), both as structural materials and functional materials, such as catalyst supports, protective coatings (Messori, 2003, 2004a); Toselli, 2007; Fabbri, 2008), sensors (Rovati, 2011; Fabbri, 2011), and active glasses. Optical fiber sensors are traditionally obtain by fully-inorganic sol-gel process that allows the creation of Si-O-Si linkages between the silica core of the optical fiber and the silica porous matrix deriving from the jellification of the sensitive dye-doped colloidal suspension (Cao, 2005). However, this approach cannot be easily applied in the case of plastic optical fibers, due to the ineffective interaction between the organic PMMA optical fiber core (Lin, 2000). The approach proposed in this work consists in the fabrication of a pH sensor based on an organic-inorganic hybrid matrix obtained by a sol-gel process, doped with a pH sensitive indicator, to be applied at the tip of plastic optical fibers. Inside the sensitive element, the organic part of the hybrid glass, polyethylene oxide (PEO), plays a multiple role: (i) it allows good adhesion between the plastic optical fiber and the whole sensitive element; (ii) its weak hydrophilicity permits to tune the kinetic of response of the sensor by influencing thediffusion rate of the analyte inside the porous matrix and its interaction with the indicator; (iii) its nature of organic compound allows better physical and chemical interactions with the organic pH indicator dispersed in the hybrid matrix, thus reducing problems of leaching and enhancing the response rate of the sensor.

Plastic Optical Fiber pH Sensor Using a Sol-Gel Sensing Matrix

FABBRI, PAOLA;
2012

Abstract

Current trends in optical sensors, such as miniaturization, flexibility and enhanced sensitivity, are indicating a new chemical route for the development of advanced multifunctional materials for optical applications. Those chemical technologies, which can be more easily customized and allows the inclusion of multiple functionalities within a unique preparation step, are bound to be progressively more and more applied to the preparation of optical materials. In this perspective, the sol-gel technology certainly represents one of the most promising chemical strategies, thanks to numerous advantages mainly related to simplicity and mild operative conditions. It enables creating a glass-like porous structure at room temperature by a two-step acid or base catalyzed reaction involving hydrolysis and condensation, starting with metal alkoxides M(OR)4, which transforms into a rigid three-dimensional metal-oxide network (Brinker, 1990). The sol–gel process has been proved to be flexible enough for an efficient incorporation of organic polymer chains that can behave as flexible links between the metal-oxide domains in the inorganic network, in particular when they are bearing reactive groups that can be involved in the hydrolysis–condensation reactions. The resulting materials are known as organic–inorganic hybrids (Schmidt, 2000), also commonly designated as ceramers due to the combination of the properties of ceramics (high modulus, thermal stability and low coefficient of thermal expansion) with those of organic polymers (high ductility, molecular flexibility and low temperature processing). These materials are often also known as phase-interconnected nanocomposites because of the high level of interconnection between the two phases with domain phase sizes approaching the nanometer scale. Ceramers have a huge potential for application in a variety of advanced technologies (Eckert, 2001; Sanchez, 2011; Kickelkick, 2006), both as structural materials and functional materials, such as catalyst supports, protective coatings (Messori, 2003, 2004a); Toselli, 2007; Fabbri, 2008), sensors (Rovati, 2011; Fabbri, 2011), and active glasses. Optical fiber sensors are traditionally obtain by fully-inorganic sol-gel process that allows the creation of Si-O-Si linkages between the silica core of the optical fiber and the silica porous matrix deriving from the jellification of the sensitive dye-doped colloidal suspension (Cao, 2005). However, this approach cannot be easily applied in the case of plastic optical fibers, due to the ineffective interaction between the organic PMMA optical fiber core (Lin, 2000). The approach proposed in this work consists in the fabrication of a pH sensor based on an organic-inorganic hybrid matrix obtained by a sol-gel process, doped with a pH sensitive indicator, to be applied at the tip of plastic optical fibers. Inside the sensitive element, the organic part of the hybrid glass, polyethylene oxide (PEO), plays a multiple role: (i) it allows good adhesion between the plastic optical fiber and the whole sensitive element; (ii) its weak hydrophilicity permits to tune the kinetic of response of the sensor by influencing thediffusion rate of the analyte inside the porous matrix and its interaction with the indicator; (iii) its nature of organic compound allows better physical and chemical interactions with the organic pH indicator dispersed in the hybrid matrix, thus reducing problems of leaching and enhancing the response rate of the sensor.
2012
Fiber Optic Sensors
415
439
L. Rovati; P. Fabbri; L. Ferrari; F. Pilati
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11585/474202
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