A new simple fiber-optic evanescent wave sensor was created to accurately monitor the growth and hydrogen production performance of biofilms. The proposed sensor consists of two probes (i.e., a sensor and reference probe), using the etched fibers with an appropriate surface roughness to improve its sensitivity. The sensor probe measures the biofilm growth and change of liquid-phase concentration inside the biofilm. The reference probe is coated with a hydrophilic polytetrafluoroethylene membrane to separate the liquids from photosynthetic bacteria Rhodopseudomonas palustris CQK 01 and to measure the liquid concentration. We also developed a model to demonstrate the accuracy of the measurement. The biofilm measurement was calibrated using an Olympus microscope. A linear relationship was obtained for the biofilm thickness range from 0 to 120 μm with a synthetic medium under continuous supply to the bioreactor. The highest level of hydrogen production rate occurred at a thickness of 115 μm.
Optofluidic microreactors are promising prospects for photocatalytic reactions. However, because the flow type in conventional designs is typically laminar, the mass transport mainly relies on diffusion, and thus the rate of mass transport is limited. Accordingly, poor mass transport reduces the photocatalytic reaction rate. To alleviate the limitation of mass transport, in this work, we proposed a novel optofluidic microreactor with TiO2-coated fiberglasses immersed in the microreaction chamber. Such a design enables enhanced mass transport by shortening the transport length and inducing the perturbation to liquid flow so as to improve the performance. We demonstrated the feasibility of the optofluidic microreactor with the TiO2-coated fiberglass by the photocatalytic water treatment of methylene blue under UV irradiation. Results showed that the proposed optofluidic microreactor yielded much higher degradation efficiency than did the conventional optofluidic microreactor as a result of enhanced mass transport. The microreactor with the TiO2-coated fiberglass showed a 2-3-fold improvement in the reaction rate constant as opposed to conventional ones. The maximal increment of the degradation efficiency can reach more than 40%.
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