Quantitative volatile organic compound sensing with liquid crystal core fibers

Cell Rep Phys Sci. 2021 Dec 22;2(12):100661. doi: 10.1016/j.xcrp.2021.100661.


Polymer fibers with liquid crystals (LCs) in the core have potential as autonomous sensors of airborne volatile organic compounds (VOCs), with a high surface-to-volume ratio enabling fast and sensitive response and an attractive non-woven textile form factor. We demonstrate their ability to continuously and quantitatively measure the concentration of toluene, cyclohexane, and isopropanol as representative VOCs, via the impact of each VOC on the LC birefringence. The response is fully reversible and repeatable over several cycles, the response time can be as low as seconds, and high sensitivity is achieved when the operating temperature is near the LC-isotropic transition temperature. We propose that a broad operating temperature range can be realized by combining fibers with different LC mixtures, yielding autonomous VOC sensors suitable for integration in apparel or in furniture that can compete with existing consumer-grade electronic VOC sensors in terms of sensitivity and response speed.

Keywords: core-sheath fibers; electrospinning; gas sensor; liquid crystal; non-woven fiber mats; volatile organic compound (VOC) sensing; wearable technology.