The phenomenon of evanescent-wave scattering (EWS) is used to design an optical-fiber humidity sensor. Porous solgel silica (PSGS) coated on the surface of a silica optical-fiber core scatters evanescent waves that penetrate the coating layer. Water molecules in the gas phase surrounding the optical fiber can be absorbed into the inner surface of the pores of the porous silica. The absorbed water molecules form a thin layer of liquid water on the inner surface of the porous silica and enhance the EWS. The amount of water absorbed into the PSGS coating is in dynamic equilibrium with the water-vapor pressure in the gas phase. Therefore the humidity in the air can be quantitatively determined with fiber-optic EWS caused by the PSGS coating. The humidity sensor reported here is fast in response, reversible, and has a wide dynamic range. The possible interference caused by EWS to an optical-fiber gas sensor with a reagent-doped PSGS coating as a transducer is also discussed.
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