Sensitivity gains in chemosensing by lasing action in organic polymers.

TitleSensitivity gains in chemosensing by lasing action in organic polymers.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2005
AuthorsRose, A, Zhu, Z, Madigan, CF, Swager, TM, Bulović, V
Date Publishedapr

Societal needs for greater security require dramatic improvements in the sensitivity of chemical and biological sensors. To meet this challenge, increasing emphasis in analytical science has been directed towards materials and devices having highly nonlinear characteristics; semiconducting organic polymers (SOPs), with their facile excited state (exciton) transport, are prime examples of amplifying materials. SOPs have also been recognized as promising lasing materials, although the susceptibility of these materials to optical damage has thus far limited applications. Here we report that attenuated lasing in optically pumped SOP thin films displays a sensitivity to vapours of explosives more than 30 times higher than is observed from spontaneous emission. Critical to this achievement was the development of a transducing polymer with high thin-film quantum yield, a high optical damage threshold in ambient atmosphere and a record low lasing threshold. Trace vapours of the explosives 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT) and 2,4-dinitrotoluene (DNT) introduce non-radiative deactivation pathways that compete with stimulated emission. We demonstrate that the induced cessation of the lasing action, and associated sensitivity enhancement, is most pronounced when films are pumped at intensities near their lasing threshold. The combined gains from amplifying materials and lasing promise to deliver sensors that can detect explosives with unparalleled sensitivity.