Articles | Volume 4, issue 1
J. Sens. Sens. Syst., 4, 103–109, 2015
https://doi.org/10.5194/jsss-4-103-2015

Special issue: Advanced functional materials for environmental monitoring...

J. Sens. Sens. Syst., 4, 103–109, 2015
https://doi.org/10.5194/jsss-4-103-2015

Regular research article 05 Mar 2015

Regular research article | 05 Mar 2015

Silicon micro-levers and a multilayer graphene membrane studied via laser photoacoustic detection

Z. Zelinger1, P. Janda1, J. Suchánek1,2, M. Dostál1,2, P. Kubát1, V. Nevrlý2, P. Bitala2, and S. Civiš1 Z. Zelinger et al.
  • 1J. Heyrovský Institute of Physical Chemistry AS CR, Prague, Czech Republic
  • 2Faculty of Safety Engineering, VŠB – Technical University of Ostrava, Ostrava, Czech Republic

Abstract. Laser photoacoustic spectroscopy (PAS) is a method that utilizes the sensing of the pressure waves that emerge upon the absorption of radiation by absorbing species. The use of the conventional electret microphone as a pressure sensor has already reached its limit, and a new type of microphone – an optical microphone – has been suggested to increase the sensitivity of this method. The movement of a micro-lever or a membrane is sensed via a reflected beam of light, which falls onto a position-sensing detector. The use of one micro-lever as a pressure sensor in the form of a silicon cantilever has already enhanced the sensitivity of laser PAS.

Herein, we test two types of home-made sensing elements – four coupled silicon micro-levers and a multilayer graphene membrane – which have the potential to enhance this sensitivity further. Graphene sheets possess outstanding electromechanical properties and demonstrate impressive sensitivity as mass detectors. Their mechanical properties make them suitable for use as micro-/nano-levers or membranes, which could function as extremely sensitive pressure sensors.

Graphene sheets were prepared from multilayer graphene through the micromechanical cleavage of basal plane highly ordered pyrolytic graphite. Multilayer graphene sheets (thickness ∼102 nm) were then mounted on an additional glass window in a cuvette for PAS. The movements of the sheets induced by acoustic waves were measured using an He–Ne laser beam reflected from the sheets onto a quadrant detector. A discretely tunable CO2 laser was used as the source of radiation energy for the laser PAS experiments. Sensitivity testing of the investigated sensing elements was performed with the aid of concentration standards and a mixing arrangement in a flow regime. The combination of sensitive microphones and micromechanical/nanomechanical elements with laser techniques offers a method for the study and development of new, reliable and highly sensitive chemical sensing systems. To our knowledge, we have produced the first demonstration of the feasibility of using four coupled silicon micro-levers and graphene membranes in an optical microphone for PAS. Although the sensitivity thus far remains inferior to that of the commercial electret microphone (with an S / N ratio that is 5 times lower), further improvement is expected to be achieved by adjusting the micro-levers and membrane elements, the photoacoustic system and the position detector.

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Short summary
We tested two types of home-made sensing elements – four coupled silicon micro-levers and a multilayer graphene membrane – which have the potential to further enhance the sensitivity of laser photoacoustic spectroscopy. Graphene sheets possess outstanding electromechanical properties and demonstrate impressive sensitivity as mass detectors. Their mechanical properties make them suitable for use as micro-/nano-levers or membranes, which could function as extremely sensitive pressure sensors.