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Sensors (Basel). 2010;10(5):4887-97. doi: 10.3390/s100504887. Epub 2010 May 12.

Solvent vapour detection with cholesteric liquid crystals--optical and mass-sensitive evaluation of the sensor mechanism.

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Department of Analytical Chemistry, University of Vienna, Waehringer Strasse 38, A-1090 Vienna, Austria.


Cholesteric liquid crystals (CLCs) are used as sensitive coatings for the detection of organic solvent vapours for both polar and non-polar substances. The incorporation of different analyte vapours in the CLC layers disturbs the pitch length which changes the optical properties, i.e., shifting the absorption band. The engulfing of CLCs around non-polar solvent vapours such as tetrahedrofuran (THF), chloroform and tetrachloroethylene is favoured in comparison to polar ones, i.e., methanol and ethanol. Increasing solvent vapour concentrations shift the absorbance maximum to smaller wavelengths, e.g., as observed for THF. Additionally, CLCs have been coated on acoustic devices such as the quartz crystal microbalance (QCM) to measure the frequency shift of analyte samples at similar concentration levels. The mass effect for tetrachloroethylene was about six times higher than chloroform. Thus, optical response can be correlated with intercalation in accordance to mass detection. The mechanical stability was gained by combining CLCs with imprinted polymers. Therefore, pre-concentration of solvent vapours was performed leading to an additional selectivity.


QCM; cholesteric liquid crystals; optical absorbance; organic solvent vapours; pitch

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