This paper presents a novel approach to measurements of low relative humidity (RH) values based on the whispering gallery modes (WGMs) effect in a small silica microsphere coated with a thin layer of Agarose hydrogel. The light from a narrow-linewidth tunable laser with a few GHz tuning range is launched into an adiabatic tapered fiber, which excites WGMs in the Agarose layer via evanescent coupling. Adsorption and desorption of water vapor by the Agarose layer in response to changes in ambient humidity lead to changes in the layer's refractive index, which in turn leads to a spectral shift of the WGM resonances. We experimentally demonstrate the WGMs spectral shift over a range of RH values from 1%RH to 25%RH. The proposed sensor displays linear response and is capable of measurement of low concentrations of water vapor (corresponding to about 11.7 ± 0.32 ppm water molecules in air). In addition, the proposed sensor offers the advantages of a very small form factor and good repeatability. Detailed studies of the sensor stability, cross sensitivity to temperature, response times, and hysteresis are also presented.
© 2018 IEEEPDF Article