Abstract

We demonstrate a high-performance relative humidity (RH) sensor by coating a photonic crystal (PC) cavity with polyvinyl alcohol (PVA). Because a PC cavity’s evanescent field strongly interacts with the coated moisture-sensitive PVA film, the resonant wavelength is modified remarkably under varying RH levels ranging from 30% to 90%. In a PC cavity coated with a 720 nm thick PVA, the sensor exhibits a linear spectrum sensitivity exceeding 129 pm/%RH over 40–90%RH, and the power interrogation presents a high sensitivity as 0.77 dB/%RH. The resolvable humidity variation could be much less than 0.1%RH. Relying on the sub-micron thick PVA, the sensor promises a response time less than 300 ms and good repeatability. The dependence of the sensor performances on the PVA thickness is studied as well, indicating a tradeoff between the sensing dynamic range and the response time.

© 2016 Optical Society of America

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