We present a novel optical fiber surface plasmon resonance (SPR) sensor scheme using reflected guided cladding modes captured by a double-clad fiber coupler and excited in a gold-coated fiber with a tilted Bragg grating. This new interrogation approach, based on the reflection spectrum, provides an improvement in the operating range of the device over previous techniques. The device allows detection of SPR in the reflected guided cladding modes and also in the transmitted spectrum, allowing comparison with standard techniques. The sensor has a large operating range from 1.335 to 1.432 RIU, and a sensitivity of . The device shows strong dependence on the polarization state of the guided core mode which can be used to turn the SPR on or off.
© 2013 Optical Society of America
Recently, many surface plasmon resonance (SPR) sensors have been proposed using the excitation of an SPR by tilted fiber Bragg gratings in gold-coated waveguides and fibers. Shevchenko and Albert  observed experimentally the SPR modifying the cladding mode transmission spectrum by using tilted fiber Bragg gratings (TFBG) at a small angle ranging from 2 to 10 degrees. The sensitivity of such a sensor was reported to be for a limited surrounding refractive index (SRI) operating range of between 1.42 and 1.45 RIU. The full width half-maximum (FWHM) spectral width of the SPR localization in the observed cladding modes was 5 nm .
Spackova and Homola have proposed theoretically a multichannel single-mode fiber (SMF) optic SPR sensor based on coupling of the forward-propagating core mode into the counterpropagating mixed SPR cladding modes by a fiber Bragg grating . Such a sensor provides a sensitivity of and a FWHM of 0.25 nm . Caucheteur proposed an experimental TFBG SPR on a gold-coated SMF sensor using different properties such as the polarization-dependent loss and the first Stokes parameter . Such a sensor provides a sensitivity of , again for a limited SRI range between 1.31 and 1.38 RIU with a FWHM of the SPR envelope of 5 nm. Holmes has proposed an experimental planar-integrated SPR-TFBG sensor  which operates by coupling the core mode of a planar waveguide to a set of hybrid Plasmon dielectric modes. The proposed device yields a maximum predicted sensitivity of .
One of the characteristics of all these devices [1–4] is that the cladding modes are not collected since they may be dissipated through propagation along the high-index polymer jacket of the fiber. Hence, the SPR is usually observed through the transmission spectrum alone. Also, the transmission spectrum has weak cladding resonances for the low-order cladding modes, which limits the operating range of the device. Additionally, sensors operating in transmission require that the grating itself be coated in gold. Chan and Albert have demonstrated the transmission spectrum of TFBG reflected from a cleaved fiber end-facet coated with gold for sensing , where the measured spectrum represents the interference between the reflection spectrum and the transmission spectrum seen reflected from the fiber end.
In this Letter, we present a simple but novel SPR device using a double-clad fiber coupler (DCFC) and a TFBG in a standard photosensitive SMF. The device efficiently measures the spectrum of the SPR-modified reflected cladding modes as well as that of the transmitted core mode.
Figure 1 shows a schematic of our device. It consists of a DCFC fabricated by fusing and tapering two double-clad fibers (DCFs) [5–7]. The DCF’s single-mode core is excited by a SMF spliced to a branch (1) and connected to a broadband source in a wavelength range between 1525 and 1590 nm. The DCF has a single-mode core of 9 μm diameter, a lower index first cladding of 105 μm diameter, and a depressed outer cladding of 125 μm diameter. The light from the broadband source passes through an inline polarizer. A polarization controller configured as a half-wave plate is used to rotate and adjust the polarization state of the light reaching the DCFC and the TFBG. The end of branch (4) was immersed in index-matching oil in order to ensure that the end-facet Fresnel reflection from the transmitted TFBG spectrum does not interfere with the spectrum detected at branch (2).
A 6° TFBG with a nominally nulled core reflection centered at 1586 nm and a length of 2 cm is written into a photosensitive boron/germanium (B/Ge) doped fiber (Redfern, Eveleigh, NSW, Australia) to excite cladding modes efficiently. This fiber is etched using hydrofluoric acid to a diameter of 105 μm to match the diameter of the inner cladding of the DCF. The TFBG is imprinted in the photosensitive fiber by a commercially available 266 nm solid-state nanosecond -switched frequency-quadrupled yttrium lithium fluoride (YLF) laser, using a scanning phase mask technique . A mirror mounted on a linear translation stage scans the laser, which is focused on the fiber through a 20 cm focal length cylindrical lens. In order to fabricate the tilted gratings, the phase mask itself was rotated by 6° relative to the propagation axis of the fiber .
A 2 nm thin film of chromium and 30 nm of gold are deposited on the 2 cm long TFBG by sputtering, rotating the fiber by 180° in two exposures. The device is characterized by collecting the back-reflected cladding modes through the inner cladding of the DCF. An OSA at branch (2) records the reflected spectrum (Fig. 1). The transmission spectrum is also characterized by connecting the OSA at the end of branch (3).
The transmission and the reflection spectra from the gold-coated TFBG immersed in air are shown in Fig. 2. The transmission spectrum consists of two bands: a weak core mode resonance at 1586 nm (nominally nulled) and a set of resonances from the cladding modes on the short wavelength side of the core resonance. Cladding mode resonances begin at a wavelength of 1584 nm and consist of relatively weak and almost invisible low-order cladding modes between 1584 and 1574 nm, as well as many high-order cladding modes. The core reflection serves as a reference peak at a wavelength insensitive to the SRI. The reflection spectrum consists of a strong core mode peak and several cladding modes. The visibility of the reflected spectrum peaks is much higher than that of the transmitted counterparts, and enables the observation of lower-order cladding modes which can be used for SPR sensing.
Some of the excited cladding modes couple to the SPR and are dissipated in the metal if the phase matching (PM) condition is satisfied. This happens when the effective refractive index of cladding modes is close to that of the SPR, as determined by the SRI. According to a geometrical optics picture, each cladding mode represents an optical ray striking the cladding–metal boundary at some angle of incidence. Figure 3 shows results from a numerical simulation estimating the reflectance with respect to the incidence angle in the Kretschmann configuration, using the matrix method for four layers, including the cladding, chromium, gold, and the SRI at 1550 nm. The calculated resonant angle determines the strongest coupling to the SPR and hence the SPR’s existence. At the resonant angle, the PM condition is satisfied . In general, the PM condition can be expressed as9] 4 shows the calculated SPR resonance angle as a function of the SRI. The incident angles increase as the SRI increases, corresponding to steeper incident angles of the high-order cladding modes.
The amplitude of the affected cladding modes decreases significantly at the PM wavelength. Figure 5 shows the spectra obtained with the SPR-TFBG sensor with different SRI liquids. Changing the SRI tunes the SPR wavelength. The SPR shifts toward longer wavelengths as the PM condition changes with the increasing SRI. As shown in Fig. 5, the reflection spectra provide better discrimination of the SPR, with more than 8 dB of extinction ratio as well as an improved operating range at high values of the SRI, e.g., at an SRI of 1.43. On the other hand, the SPR signature is invisible in transmission because of the weak coupling to the low-order cladding modes. The FWHM of the SPR excitation signature is 4 nm maximum. A few cladding modes whose incident angles are close to the SPR resonance angle satisfy the PM condition and couple to the SPR. This makes the SPR location broader than expected. The two-step gold deposition approach, which resulted in nonuniform gold deposition around the fiber, makes the FWHM of the SPR wider as well, due to position-dependent gold thickness .
In addition to satisfying the PM condition, coupling to the SPR requires the polarization state of the cladding modes to be matched to the SPR, since SPR only couples to the polarization state. Controlling the polarization state is therefore crucial for our sensor ; rotating the linearly polarized light in branch (1) by 90° relative to the grating tilt plane using a half-wave plate turns the SPR coupling from the “on” (-polarized mode) to the “off” (-polarized mode) state. For strongly tilted gratings, in the case of the -polarized mode, the electric fields of the cladding modes are polarized radially at the cladding interface  and therefore aid coupling. In the case of the -polarized mode, the electric fields of the cladding modes are polarized azimuthally at the cladding interface and are therefore not coupled to the SPR. In our case, the weak 6° tilted angle ensures that cladding modes with both radial polarization states are excited no matter the polarization state of the core mode, with coupling increasing to the azimuthal polarization modes with increasing tilt angle and with the appropriate core mode polarization. Hence, the radial polarization cladding mode will always excite the SPR provided that the gold coating is uniform. The nonuniform radial coating, as is the case in our sensor, helps to reduce the coupling to the orthogonal radial polarization states and hence increases the extinction of the SPR as a function of the core mode’s polarization state. Figure 6 shows that TFBG-assisted excitation of the SPR in both reflection and transmission depends strongly on the state of polarization of the fundamental core mode, even for such a shallow tilt angle. This, we believe, is due to the asymmetric gold coating on the fiber, which has no gold to couple to for one of two orthogonal, radially polarized cladding mode states. Several techniques have been proposed to improve the resolution and the performance of the SPR-TFBG sensor in transmission based on tracking individual cladding mode resonances and their dependence on the state of polarization [14,15], or using different properties such as the first Stokes parameter and the polarization-dependent loss . These techniques are also fully applicable to our proposed configuration.
Figure 7 shows a linear dependence of the SPR as a function of the SRI. The slope demonstrates a sensitivity of . By considering the midpoint between the two adjacent cladding resonance peaks close to the SPR envelope as the central SPR wavelength, we have ascertained that these results are repeatable with a maximum error of . This technique helps in reducing the error of our sensor and hence improving the resolution to with the OSA used in our setup. The sensor provides a significantly wider operating range of between 1.335 and 1.430 RIU using the reflection spectrum, compared to those reported in the literature [1–4]. By simply increasing the tilt angle, stronger coupling occurs to cladding modes of lower effective indices than 1.335, hence increasing the dynamic range for SPR sensing.
Finally, since the cladding modes are captured and guided through the DCF, the entire device can be simplified. This can be achieved by coating any part of the DCF with gold after etching off the outer cladding completely instead of coating the TFBG itself. Only a part of the DCF region has to be etched so that the inner cladding is exposed to the SRI for sensing. This approach allows the construction of a sensor with reduced complexity since it provides a larger and more flexible sensing area along the etched and gold-coated DCF. In addition, it keeps the grating unmodified and safe. This configuration can also be adapted for development of novel multichannel SPR fiber optic probes. Work is underway to make this improvement, and the results will be reported elsewhere.
In conclusion, a novel, gold-coated fiber SPR sensor using cladding modes generated by a TFBG and captured by a DCFC has been experimentally demonstrated. The existence of the SPR excited in gold-coated TFBG in both the reflected guided cladding modes and its transmitted core mode have been shown. The device’s response is strongly dependent on the polarization state guided core mode, turning the SPR entirely on or off. The sensor has a sensitivity of , and a wide SRI operating range from 1.335 to 1.432 RIU, larger than any reported in the literature to our knowledge. Using the SPR-TFBG in reflection with sufficient discrimination of all individually captured cladding modes allows for the extended SRI range. The added convenience of observing both the transmitted and reflected spectra simultaneously makes this sensor especially easy to use.
1. Y. Y. Shevchenko and J. Albert, Opt. Lett. 32, 211 (2007). [CrossRef]
2. B. Špačková, M. Piliarik, P. Kvasnička, C. Themistos, M. Rajarajan, and J. Homola, Sens. Actuators B 139, 199 (2009). [CrossRef]
3. C. Caucheteur, Y. Shevchenko, L.-Y. Shao, M. Wuilpart, and J. Albert, Opt. Express 19, 1656 (2011). [CrossRef]
4. C. Holmes, K. R. Daly, I. J. G. Sparrow, J. C. Gates, G. D’Alessandro, and P. G. R. Smith, IEEE Photon. J. 3, 777 (2011). [CrossRef]
5. C.-F. Chan, C. Chen, A. Jafari, A. Laronche, D. J. Thomson, and J. Albert, Appl. Opt. 46, 1142 (2007). [CrossRef]
6. S. Lemire-Renaud, M. Rivard, M. Strupler, D. Morneau, F. Verpillat, X. Daxhelet, N. Godbout, and C. Boudoux, Opt. Express 18, 9755 (2010). [CrossRef]
7. M. D. Baiad, M. Gagné, S. Lemire-Renaud, E. De Montigny, W.-J. Madore, N. Godbout, C. Boudoux, and R. Kashyap, Opt. Express 21, 6873 (2013). [CrossRef]
8. M. Gagné and R. Kashyap, Proc. SPIE 8243, 824314 (2012). [CrossRef]
9. R. Kashyap, Fiber Bragg Gratings (Academic, 2009).
10. R. C. Jorgenson and S. S. Yee, Sens. Actuators B 12, 213 (1993). [CrossRef]
11. S. Singh, K. Verma, and B. D. Gupta, Sens. Transducers J. 100, 116 (2009).
12. Y. Shevchenko, C. Chen, M. A. Dakka, and J. Albert, Opt. Lett. 35, 637 (2010). [CrossRef]
13. J. Albert, L.-Y. Shao, and C. Caucheteur, Laser Photon. Rev. 7, 83 (2013). [CrossRef]
14. C. Caucheteur, V. Voisin, P. Megret, and J. Albert, Proc. SPIE 8421, 84214U (2012). [CrossRef]
15. C. Caucheteur, V. Voisin, and J. Albert, Opt. Express 21, 3055 (2013). [CrossRef]