Integrating Sensors into Optical Fiber
Getting information can be of vital importance for many systems and situations, but sometimes the environment is too harsh to use traditional sensors. Specialized sensors have to be developed then, and some can be very complicated and inelegant. As published in the Optical Society's Optics Letters journal, a new sensor system has been developed that fits inside a single optical fiber, and sets an impressive record.
The researchers were inspired to develop simpler sensors after seeing what NASA has to do to measure liquid hydrogen in microgravity. They turned to fiber optics because they realized that the cables can deliver energy just as they can carry signals, so sensors integrated into the cables can be powered. This power enables a variety of active sensors and devices to be built into the cable, such as gas flow sensors and devices to convert optical energy into ultrasonic energy and microwaves. Hundreds of these could be put into a single fiber, and by the nature of fiber optics, they can be very resilient. Already the researchers have built a gas flow sensors that can operate at temperatures above 800 ºC, which is two hundred degrees above other sensors.
Potentially these sensing fiber optics could be used in nuclear reactors, deep geothermal drill cores, and in outer space. The researchers are now looking to see what else they can carry along optical cables, perhaps by changing its shape and size.
Source: The Optical Society