Specially Shaped Optical Fiber Probes: Understanding and Their Applications in Integrated Photonics, Sensing, and Microfluidics
Thanks to their capability of transmitting light with low loss, optical fibers have found a wide range of applications in illumination, imaging, and telecommunication. However, since the light guided in a regular optical fiber is well confined in the core and effectively isolated from the environment, the fiber does not allow the interactions between the light and matters around it, which are critical for many sensing and actuation applications. Specially shaped optical fibers endow the guided light in optical fibers with the capability of interacting with the environment by modifying part of the fiber into a special shape, while still preserving the regular fiber’s benefit of low-loss light delivering. However, the existing specially shaped fibers have the following limitations: 1) limited light coupling efficiency between the regular optical fiber and the specially shaped optical fiber, 2) lack special shape designs that can facilitate the light-matter interactions, 3) inadequate material selections for different applications, 4) the existing fabrication setups for the specially shaped fibers have poor accessibility, repeatability, and controllability. The overall goal of this dissertation is to further the fundamental understanding of specially shaped fibers and to develop novel specially shaped fibers for different applications. In addition, the final part of this dissertation work proposed a microfluidic platform that can potentially improve the light-matter interactions of the specially shaped fibers in fluidic environments. The contributions of this dissertation work are summarized as follows: 1) An enhanced fiber tapering system for highly repeatable adiabatic tapered fiber fabrications. An enhanced fiber tapering system based on a novel heat source and an innovative monitoring method have been developed. The novel heat source is a low-cost ceramic housed electric furnace (CHEF). The innovative monitoring method is based on the frequency-domain optical transmission signal from the fiber that is being tapered. The enhanced fiber tapering system can allow highly repeatable fabrication of adiabatically tapered fibers. 2) A lossy mode resonance (LMR) sensor enabled by SnO2 coating on a novel specially shaped fiber design has been developed. The developed LMR sensor has a D-shape fiber tip with SnO2 coating. It has the capability of relative humidity and moisture sensing. The fiber-tip form factor can allow the sensor to be used like a probe and be inserted into/removed from a tight space. 3) Specially shaped tapered fibers with novel designs have been developed for integrated photonic and microfluidic applications. Two novel specially tapered fibers, the tapered fiber loop and the tapered fiber helix have been developed. The tapered fiber loop developed in this work has two superiority that differentiated itself from previous works: a) the mechanical stability of the tapered fiber loop in this work is significantly better. b) the tapered fiber loops in this work can achieve a diameter as small as 15 ?m while still have a high intrinsic optical quality factor of 32,500. The tapered fiber helix developed in this work has a 3D structure that allows it to efficiently deliver light to locations out of the plane defined by its two regular fiber arms. Applications of the tapered fiber helices in both integrated photonic device characterizations and microparticle manipulations have been demonstrated. 4) Developed an acrylic-tape hybrid microfluidic platform that can allow function reconfiguration and optical fiber integration. A low-cost, versatile microfluidic platform based on reconfigurable acrylic-tape hybrid microfluidic devices has been developed. To the best of the author’s knowledge, this is the first time that the fabrication method of sealing the acrylic channel with a reconfigurable functional tape has been demonstrated. The tape-sealing method is compatible with specially shaped fiber integrations.