Photoionization detector or PID is a type of gas detector.
Typical photoionization detectors measure volatile organic compounds and other gases in concentrations from sub parts per billion to 10 000 parts per million (ppm). The photoionization detector is an efficient and inexpensive detector for many gas and vapor analytes. PIDs produce instantaneous readings, operate continuously, and are commonly used as detectors for gas chromatography or as hand-held portable instruments.
In a photoionization detector high-energy photons, typically in the vacuum ultraviolet (VUV) range, break molecules into positively charged ions. As compounds enter the detector they are bombarded by high-energy UV photons and are ionized when they absorb the UV light, resulting in ejection of electrons and the formation of positively charged ions. The ions produce an electric current, which is the signal output of the detector. The greater the concentration of the component, the more ions are produced, and the greater the current. The current is amplified and displayed on an ammeter or digital concentration display.
The ions can undergo numerous reactions including reaction with oxygen or water vapor, rearrangement, and fragmentation. A few of them may recapture an electron within the detector to reform their original molecules; however only a small portion of the airborne analytes are ionized to begin with so the practical impact of this (if it occurs) is usually negligible. Thus, PIDs are non-destructive and can be used before other sensors in multiple-detector configurations.