Quantitative laser spectroscopic measurements of complex molecules that have a broad absorption spectra require broadly tunable laser sources operating preferably in the mid-infrared molecular fingerprint region. In this paper a novel broadband mid-infrared laser source comprising of an array of single-mode distributed feedback quantum cascade lasers was used to target a broadband absorption feature of benzene (C6H6), a toxic and carcinogenic atmospheric pollutant.
The DFB-QCL array is a monolithic semiconductor device with no opto-mechanical components, which eliminates issues with mechanical vibrations. The DFB-QCLs array used in this work provides spectral coverage from 1022.5 cm-1 to 1053.3 cm-1, which is sufficient to access the absorption feature of benzene at 1038 cm-1 (9.64 μm).
A sensor prototype based on a 76 m multipass cell (AMAC-76LW, Aerodyne Research) and a dispersive DFB-QCL array beam combiner was developed and tested. The Allan deviation analysis of the retrieved benzene concentration data yields a short-term precision of 100 ppbv/Hz1/2 and a minimum detectable concentration of 12 ppbv for 200 s averaging time. The system was also tested by sampling atmospheric air as well as vapors of different chemical products that contained traces of benzene.