Abstract

Long-period gratings (LPGs) induced in optical fibers show exceptional refractive index (RI) sensitivity and thus they are often applied for label-free biosensing. However, during measurements at changing environmental conditions, the surface of the fiber made of fused silica is subjected to stresses that can cause alterations in its structure. The problem is particularly important when long-term or biosensing measurements are considered and when sensor surface may be exposed to subsequent drying and immersion in aqueous solutions. The aim of this paper was to investigate the influence of sequential drying in air and soaking in water of the fused silica fiber cladding surface on the optical response of LPGs. We demonstrated that transmission spectrum of LPG measured in water before and after drying in air differed significantly and further changed with subsequent drying steps indicating increase of the local RI. All these changes correspond to the alterations in the cladding surface, i.e., its fracturing and pores rearrangement, caused by the stress induced during drying and then immersing in water, as well as possible corrosion and formation of nanosized objects on the cladding surface. The effect can be additionally influenced by washing the samples in organic solvents. We confirmed that measurements done in a flow-cell system, where the sensor was kept wet during the sensing experiment may eliminate the water-induced fiber surface alteration effect and thus minimize the amount of false results. Described findings are highly important for biosensing applications of any optical-fiber-based devices.

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