A terahertz artificial material composed of metal rod array is experimentally investigated on its transmission spectral property and successfully incorporated into microfluidics as a miniaturized terahertz waveguide with an extended optical-path-length for label-free fluidic sensing. Theoretical and experimental characterizations of terahertz transmission spectra show that the wave guidance along the metal rod array originates from the resonance of transverse-electric-polarized waves within the metal rod slits. The extended optical path length along three layers of metal-rod-array enables terahertz waves sufficiently overlapping the fluid molecules embedded among the rods, leading to strongly enhanced phase change by approximately one order of magnitude compared with the blank metal-parallel-plate waveguide. Based on the enhanced phase sensitivity, three kinds of colorless liquid analytes, namely, acetone, methanol, and ethanol, with different dipole moments are identified in situ using the metal-rod-array-based microfluidic sensor. The detection limit in molecular amounts of a liquid analyte is experimentally demonstrated to be less than 0.1 mmol, corresponding to 2.7 μmol/mm2. The phase sensitive terahertz metal-rod-array-based sensor potentially has good adaptability in lab-chip technology for various practical applications, such as industrial toxic fluid detection and medical breath inspection.
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