Integrated Photonic Nanofences: Combining Subwavelength Waveguides with an Enhanced Evanescent Field for Sensing Applications
Photonic nanofences consisting of high aspect ratio polymeric optical subwavelength waveguides have been developed for their application into photonic sensing devices. They are up to millimeter long arrays of 250 nm wide and 6 mu m high ridges produced by an advanced lithography process on a silicon substrate enabling their straightforward integration into complex photonic circuits. Both simulations and experimental results show that the overlap of the evanescent fields propagating from each photonic nanofence allows for the formation of an effective waveguide that confines the overall evanescent field within its limits. This permits a high interaction with the surrounding medium which can be larger than 90% of the total guided light intensity (approximately 20000 times larger than the evanescent field of a standard waveguide with equivalent dimensions). In this work, we not only investigate the photonic properties of these structures but also demonstrate their successful integration into a photonic sensor. An absorbance-based sensor for the determination of lead in water samples is therefore achieved by the combination of the photonic nanofences with an ion-sensitive optical membrane. The experimental results for lead detection in water show a sensitivity of 0.102 AU/decade, and a linear range between 10(-6) M and 10(-2) M Pb(II). A detection limit as low as 7.3 nM has been calculated according to IUPAC for a signal-to-noise ratio of 3.