This Letter deals with a feasibility analysis for the development of radiation-tolerant fiber-optic humidity sensors based on long-period grating (LPG) technology to be applied in high-energy physics (HEP) experiments currently running at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). In particular, here we propose a high-sensitivity LPG sensor coated with a finely tuned titanium dioxide (TiO2) thin layer (similar to 100 nm thick) through the solgel deposition method. Relative humidity (RH) monitoring in the range 0%-75% and at four different temperatures (in the range -10 degrees C-25 degrees C) was carried out to assess sensor performance in real operative conditions required in typical experiments running at CERN. Experimental results demonstrate the very high RH sensitivities of the proposed device (up to 1.4 nm/% RH in correspondence to very low humidity levels), which turned out to be from one to three orders of magnitude higher than those exhibited by fiber Bragg grating sensors coated with micrometer-thin polyimide overlays. The radiation tolerance capability of the TiO2-coated LPG sensor is also investigated by comparing the sensing performance before and after its exposure to a 1 Mrad dose of gamma-ionizing radiation. Overall, the results collected demonstrate the strong potential of the proposed technology with regard to its future exploitation in HEP applications as a robust and valid alternative to the commercial (polymer-based) hygrometers currently used. (C) 2014 Optical Society of America
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