Optical chemical sensors based on sol-gel materials: Recent advances and critical issues
The use of the sol-gel process to produce materials for optical chemical sensors and biosensors is attracting considerable interest. This interest derives mainly from the design flexibility of the sol-gel process and the ease of fabrication. In most applications the sol-gel material is used to provide a microporous support matrix in which analyte-sensitive species are entrapped and into which smaller analyte molecules may diffuse. Sensors based on entrapped organic and inorganic dyes, enzymes and other biomolecules have been reported. A range of sensor configurations has been employed, including monoliths, thin films, as well as more elaborate structures. In this paper a selection is presented of recent significant developments in optical chemical sensors which employ solgel-derived materials. These developments include the tailoring of sol-gel materials to optimise sensor response, advanced waveguide structures and novel probe-tip sensors. Those issues which remain critical to the eventual deployment of sol-gel sensors are examined. In particular, the problems of leaching, microstructural stability, diffusion-limited response time, and susceptibility to interferents are discussed and some solutions proposed.
Key wordssol-gel optical chemical sensor waveguide sensor fibre optic sensor
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