Chalcogenide glass fibers are matchless devices to collect mi-infrared signal. Depending on the spectroscopic strategy, different kind of optical fibers have been developed during the past 10 years. The first fibers have been fabricated from selenide glasses to implement Fiber Evanescent Wave Spectroscopy (FEWS). It is an efficient way to collect optical spectra in situ, in real time and even, in the future, in vivo. Thanks to selenide glass fibers, it is possible to record such spectra on the mid-infrared range from 2 to 11 μm. This working window gives access to the fundamental vibration band of most of biological molecules and numerous multi-disciplinary works have been led in biology and medicine.
New glasses, only based on tellurium, have been recently developed, initially in the frame of the Darwin mission led by the European Space Agency (ESA). These glasses transmit light further toward the farinfrared and permit to reach the absorption band of CO2 located at 15 μm as requested by the ESA. Moreover, these telluride glass fiber are also very interesting for FEWS and medical application. Indeed, they give access to the mid-infrared signal of biomolecules beyond 11 μm, where classical selenide glass fibers are blind. Alternatively, in order to fight against global warning, some optical fibers have been developed for the monitoring of the CO2 stored into geological storage area underground. These fibers were doped with Dy3+ which emits a broad fluorescent band embedding the CO2 absorption band at 4.3 μm. thus, these fibers are used both to transmit light and as secondary sources in the mid-infrared.
To conclude, original microstructurated fibers have also been used for mid-infrared sensing. They exhibit a nice sensitivity compared to classical chalcogenide glass fibers.
Fiber Evanescent Wave Spectroscopy (FEWS) is an efficient way to collect optical spectra in situ, in real time and even, hopefully, in vivo. Thanks to selenide glass fibers, it is possible to get such spectra over the whole mid-infrared range from 2 to 12 μm. This working window gives access to the fundamental vibration band of most of biological molecules. Moreover selenide glasses are stable and easy to handle, and it is possible to shape the fiber and create a tapered sensing head to drastically increase the sensitivity. Within the past decades, numerous multi-disciplinary studies have been conducted in collaboration with the City Hospital of Rennes. Clinical trials have provided very promising results in biology and medicine which have led to the creation in 2011 of the DIAFIR Company dedicated to the commercialization of fiber-based infrared biosensors. In addition, new glasses based on tellurium only have been recently developed, initially in the framework of the Darwin mission led by the European Space Agency (ESA). These glasses transmit light further into the far-infrared and could also be very useful for medical applications in the near future. Indeed, they permit to reach the vibrational bands of biomolecules laying from 12 to 16 μm where selenide glasses do not transmit light anymore. However, while Se is a very good glass former, telluride glasses tend to crystallize easily due to the metallic nature of Te bonds. Hence, further work is under way to stabilize the glass composition for fibers drawing and to lower the optical losses for improving their sensitivity as bio-sensors.
Chalcogenide glasses are a matchless material as far as mid-infrared (IR) applications are concerned. They transmit light typically from 2 to 12 μm and even as far as 20 μm depending on their composition, and numerous glass compositions can be designed for optical fibers. One of the most promising applications of these fibers consists in implementing fiber evanescent wave spectroscopy, which enables detection of the mid-IR signature of most biomolecules. The principles of fiber evanescent wave spectroscopy are recalled together with the benefit of using selenide glass to carry out this spectroscopy. Then, two large-scale studies in recent years in medicine and food safety are exposed. To conclude, the future strategy is presented. It focuses on the development of rare earth-doped fibers used as mid-IR sources on one hand and tellurium-based glasses to shift the limit of detection toward longer wavelength on the other hand.