Sensors (Basel). 2021 Apr 13;21(8):2745. doi: 10.3390/s21082745.
Field-portable observation and analysis of particulate matter (PM) is required to enhance healthy lives. Various types of the PM measurement methods are in use; however, each of these methods has significant limitations in that real time measurement is impossible, the detection system is bulky, or the measurement accuracy is insufficient. In this work, we introduce an optical method to perform a fast and accurate PM analysis with a higher-contrast microscopic image enabled by a side-illuminated total internal reflection (TIR) technique to be implemented in a compact device. The superiority of the proposed method was quantitatively demonstrated by comparing the signal-to-noise ratio of the proposed side-illuminated TIR method with a traditional halogen lamp-based transmission microscope. With the proposed device, signal-to-noise ratios (SNRs) for microbeads (5~20 µm) and ultrafine dust particles (>5 µm) increased 4.5~17 and 4~10 dB, respectively, compared to the conventional transmission microscope. As a proof of concept, the proposed method was also applied to a low-cost commercial smartphone toy microscope enabling field-portable detection of PMs. We believe that the proposed side-illuminated TIR PM detection device holds significant advantages over other commonly used systems due to its sufficient detection capability along with simple and compact configuration as well as low cost.