A novel concept for trace chemical analysis in liquids has been demonstrated. The technique utilizes light absorption in a superheated liquid. Although a superheated liquid is thermodynamically unstable, a high degree of superheating can be dynamically achieved for a short period of time. During this time the superheated liquid is extremely sensitive to boiling at nucleation sites produced by energy deposition. Observation of bubbles in the superheated liquid in some sense provides amplification of the initial energy deposition. Bubble chambers containing superheated liquids have been used to detect energetic particles; now a bubble chamber is used to detect a trace chemical in superheated liquid propane by observing bubble formation initiated by optical absorption. Crystal violet is used as a test case and can be detected at the subpart-per-1012 level by using a Nd:YAG laser. The mechanism for bubble formation and ideas for further improvement are discussed.
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