Aerogels—solid materials keeping their internal structure of interconnected submicron-sized pores intact upon exchanging the pore liquid with a gas—were first synthesized in 1932 by Samuel Kistler. Overall, an aerogel is a special form of a highly porous material with a very low solid density and it is composed of individual nano-sized particles or fibers that are connected to form a three-dimensional network. The unique properties of these materials, such as open pores and high surface areas, are attributed to their high porosity and irregular solid structure, which can be tuned through proper selection of the preparation conditions. Moreover, their low refractive index makes them a remarkable solid-cladding material for developing liquid-core optofluidic waveguides based on total internal reflection of light. This paper is a comprehensive review of the literature on the use of aerogels for optofluidic waveguide applications. First, an overview of different types of aerogels and their physicochemical properties is presented. Subsequently, possible techniques to fabricate channels in aerogel monoliths are discussed and methods to make the channel surfaces hydrophobic are described in detail. Studies in the literature on the characterization of light propagation in liquid-filled channels within aerogel monoliths as well as their light-guiding characteristics are discussed. Finally, possible applications of aerogel-based optofluidic waveguides are described.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited