All-polymer Photonic Sensing Platform Based on Whispering-Gallery Mode Microgoblet Lasers

Lab Chip. 2015 Sep 21;15(18):3800-6. doi: 10.1039/c5lc00670h.


We present an all-polymer photonic sensing platform based on whispering-gallery mode microgoblet lasers integrated into a microfluidic chip. The chip is entirely made from polymers, enabling the use of the devices as low-cost disposables. The microgoblet cavities feature quality factors exceeding 10(5) and are fabricated from poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) using spin-coating, mask-based optical lithography, wet chemical etching, and thermal reflow. In contrast to silica-based microtoroid resonators, this approach replaces technically demanding vacuum-based dry etching and serial laser-based reflow techniques by solution-based processing and parallel thermal reflow. This enables scaling to large-area substrates, and hence significantly reduces device costs. Moreover, the resonators can be fabricated on arbitrary substrate materials, e.g., on transparent and flexible polymer foils. Doping the microgoblets with the organic dye pyrromethene 597 transforms the passive resonators into lasers. Devices have lasing thresholds below 0.6 nJ per pulse and can be efficiently pumped via free-space optics using a compact and low-cost green laser diode. We demonstrate that arrays of microgoblet lasers can be readily integrated into a state-of-the-art microfluidic chip replicated via injection moulding. In a proof-of-principle experiment, we show the viability of the lab-on-a-chip via refractometric sensing, demonstrating a bulk refractive index sensitivity (BRIS) of 10.56 nm per refractive index unit.