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High sensitivity liquid phase measurements using broadband cavity enhanced absorption spectroscopy (BBCEAS) featuring a low cost webcam based prism spectrometer

Cavity enhanced techniques enable high sensitivity absorption measurements in the liquid phase but are typically more complex, and much more expensive, to perform than conventional absorption methods. The latter attributes have so far prevented a wide spread use of these methods in the analytical sciences. In this study we demonstrate a novel BBCEAS instrument that is sensitive, yet simple and economical to set up and operate. We use a prism spectrometer with a low cost webcam as the detector in conjunction with an optical cavity consisting of 2R = 0.99 dielectric mirrors and a white light LED source for illumination. High sensitivity liquid phase measurements were made on samples contained in 1 cm quartz cuvettes placed at normal incidence to the light beam in the optical cavity. The cavity enhancement factor (CEF) with water as the solvent was determined directly by phase shift cavity ring down spectroscopy (PSCRDS) and also by calibration with Rhodamine 6G solutions. Both methods yielded closely matching CEF values of around 60. The minimum detectable change in absorption (amin) was determined to be 6.5 x 10-5 cm-1 at 527 nm and was limited only by the 8 bit resolution of the particular webcam detector used, thus offering scope for further improvement. The instrument was used to make representative measurements on dye solutions and in the determination of nitrite concentrations in a variation of the widely used Griess Assay. Limits of detection (LOD) were 850 pM for Rhodamine 6G and 3.7 nM for nitrite, respectively. The sensitivity of the instrument compares favourably with previous cavity based liquid phase studies whilst being achieved at a small fraction of the cost hitherto reported, thus opening the door to widespread use in the community. Further means of improving sensitivity are discussed in the paper.