Authors: Stephan Freitag, Matthias Baer, Laura Buntzoll, Georg Ramer, Andreas Schwaighofer, Bernhard Schmauss, and Bernhard Lendl.
In this work, we introduce polarimetric balanced detection as a new attenuated total reflection (ATR) infrared (IR) sensing scheme, leveraging unequal effective thicknesses achieved with laser light of different polarizations. We combined a monolithic widely tunable Vernier quantum cascade laser (QCL-XT) and a multibounce ATR IR spectroscopy setup for analysis of liquids in a process analytical setting. Polarimetric balanced detection enables simultaneous recording of background and sample spectra, significantly reducing long-term drifts. The root-mean-square noise could be improved by a factor of 10 in a long-term experiment, compared to conventional absorbance measurements obtained via the single-ended optical channel. The sensing performance of the device was further evaluated by on-site measurements of ethanol in water, leading to an improved limit of detection (LOD) achieved with polarimetric balanced detection. Sequential injection analysis was employed for automated injection of samples into a custom-built ATR flow cell mounted above a zinc sulfide multibounce ATR element. The QCL-XT posed to be suitable for mid-IR-based sensing in liquids due to its wide tunability. Polarimetric balanced detection proved to enhance the robustness and long-term stability of the sensing device, along with improving the LOD by a factor of 5. This demonstrates the potential for new polarimetric QCL-based ATR mid-IR sensing schemes for in-field measurements or process monitoring usually prone to a multitude of interferences.