The mid-infrared contains the fundamental fingerprint absorption bands of a number of pollutant and toxic gases and liquids. Methane (3.3µm), CO2 (4.6µm), CO (4.2µm), NOx (6.5µm) and SOx (7.3µm) require accurate, in situ multi-component monitoring in a variety of different situations (e.g. oil-rigs, coal mines, landfill sites, car exhausts) and in concentrations, ranging from ppb to almost 100%. The mid-infrared region also provides unique fingerprints with strong absorption bands for drug intermediates, pharmaceuticals, narcotics and bio-chemicals allowing highly selective and sensitive detection or imaging. Consequently, the mid-infrared is very attractive for the development of sensitive optical sensor instrumentation. By using LEDs or diode lasers tuned to the key absorption bands one can readily envisage highly sensitive and gas specific sensors based on optical absorption.


So far  the advantages of the mid-infrared spectral range have not been fully exploited due to the limitations in current technology. Most high sensitivity optical sensors and optical spectroscopy applications require that the lasers operate single mode and at room temperature. Biochemical/chemical measurements need to be made in situ or at point of care to be useful and this requires miniaturised technology which is sensitive and inexpensive. Further development is needed in order to realise the optoelectronic devices for these requirements.


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