Prof Colette McDonagh


Colette McDonagh studied undergraduate physics at the National University of Ireland in Galway and was awarded a Ph.D. in Physics from Trinity College, Dublin. After postdoctoral work at Trinity College and at the Department of Applied Science at the University of California, Davis, she took up an academic position in the School of Physical Sciences at Dublin City University in 1986. She currently holds the position of Full Professor. She is  Head of the Optical Sensors Laboratory (OSL) in the School of Physical Sciences at DCU She is a member of the National Centre for Sensor Research (NCSR) and of the Biomedical Diagnostics Institute (BDI). Funding for research comes from a variety of sources including industry, EU and national funding bodies. She has over 120 publications has over 3500 citations.

Research Expertise

PhD Students

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Select Publications

Optical chemical sensors
  C McDonagh, CS Burke, BD MacCraith      2008      Chemical Reviews

The field of optical chemical sensors has been a growing research area over the last three decades. A wide range of books and review articles has been published by experts in the field who have highlighted the advantages of optical sensing over other transduction methods. 1-5 An appropriate definition of a chemical sensor is the so-called “Cambridge definition”: 1, 6 Chemical sensors are miniaturised deVices that can deliVer real time and on-line information on the presence of specific compounds or ions in eVen complex samples.


Optical chemical pH sensors
  D Wencel, T Abel, C McDonagh      2013      Analytical Chemistry

There has been a consistent increase in output related to the development and application of optical chemical sensors since∼ 1980. The rise of activity was linked to the major advances in optoelectronics which made available low-cost miniaturized light sources and photodetectors. In addition, the availability of high quality fibers facilitated the development and use of fiberoptic-based sensors in new applications such as biomedical and industrial. These applications required real time and continuous monitoring and so optical chemical sensors presented the perfect solution. Figure 1 shows a schematic of the basic components of an optical chemical sensor, namely, the sample (analyte), the transduction platform, and signal processing element (electronics) leading to the optical signal measurement which is related to the analyte concentration.


Tailoring of sol− gel films for optical sensing of oxygen in gas and aqueous phase
  C McDonagh, BD MacCraith, AK McEvoy      1998      Analytical Chemistry

Sol−gel-based optical sensors for both gas-phase and dissolved oxygen have been developed. Both sensors operate on the principle of fluorescence quenching of a ruthenium complex which has been entrapped in a porous sol−gel silica film. A comprehensive investigation was carried out in order to establish optimal film-processing parameters for the two sensing environments. Both tetraethoxysilane and organically modified sol−gel precursors such as methyltriethoxysilane and ethyltriethoxysilane were used. Film hydrophobicity increases as a function of modified precursor content, and this was correlated with enhanced dissolved oxygen (DO) sensor performance. Extending the aliphatic group of the modified precursor further improved DO sensitivity. The influence of water/precursor molar ratio, R, on the sol−gel film microstructure was investigated. Rvalue tailoring of the microstructure and film surface hydrophobicity tailoring were correlated with oxygen diffusion behavior in the films via the Stern−Volmer constants for both gas phase and DO sensing. Excellent performance characteristics were measured for both gas-phase and DO oxygen sensors. The long-term quenching stability of DO sensing films was established over a period of 6 months.


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