We present the theory and first experimental demonstration, to the best of our knowledge, of a sensing platform based on surface nanoscale axial photonics (SNAP) at a capillary fiber. The platform explores optical whispering gallery modes, which circulate inside the wall of a capillary and slowly propagate along its axis. Due to the small thickness of the capillary wall, these modes are sensitive to spatial and temporal variations of the refractive index of the media adjacent to the internal capillary surface. In particular, the developed theory allows us to determine the internal effective radius variation of the capillary from the measured mode spectra. Experimentally, a SNAP resonator is created by local annealing of the capillary with a focused CO2 laser followed by internal etching with hydrofluoric acid. The comparison of the spectra of this resonator in the cases when it is empty and filled with water allows us to determine the internal surface nonuniformity introduced by etching. The results obtained pave the way for a novel advanced approach in sensing of media adjacent to the internal capillary surface and, in particular, in microfluidic sensing.
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Funding: Royal Society (WM130110); Horizon 2020 Framework Programme (H2020) (H2020-EU.1.3.3, 691011); and EPSRC (EP/P006183/1).