Design of optical fiber sensors and interrogation schemes
Optical fibers are devices largely used in telecommunication field since their discovery. In the last decades, optical fibers started to be used as photonic sensors. The first works were focused on the measurement of physical dimensions to a specific point. Afterward, emerged the possibility to measure the optical fiber properties at different locations along the fiber. These kinds of sensors are defined as distributed sensors. The optoelectronic components were developed and investigated for telecommunications. The progress in telecommunication made possible the development of optical fiber sensors interrogation systems, growing in parallel with the advances of telecommunications.
Optical fiber interrogation systems were developed to use a single standard monomode optical fiber as a sensor that can monitor tens of thousands of sensing points at the same time. The methods that extract the sensing information from the backscattered signal in the optical fiber are widely employed because of the easiness of access to the sensor element and the flexibility of these systems. The most studied are the reflectometry in time and frequency domains. The optical time domain reflectometry (OTDR) was the first technique used to detect the position of the failures in the optical fiber communication networks. Using phase sensitive OTDR it is possible to sense strain and temperature at a specific position. In parallel, fiber Bragg gratings (FBGs) became the most widely used devices to implement discrete optical fiber sensors. Multiplexing techniques were developed to perform multi points sensing using these gratings. The reflectometry performed interrogating weak FBGs arrays demonstrate to improve the performance of the system employing a single mode fiber.
The interrogation systems nowadays have some drawbacks. Some of them are limited speed of interrogation, bulkiness, and high cost. New interrogation systems and optical fiber sensors were developed in this doctoral thesis to overcome some of these drawbacks. Plastic optical fiber sensors demonstrate to be an innovative platform to develop both new sensors and low cost, easy to implement interrogation systems for commercial plastic fibers. Reflectometry in time domain and microwave photonic techniques were investigated for the interrogation of weak gratings array allowed to simplify the interrogation system for the sensing of temperature and vibration.