Advanced fiber optic sensors for special applications

Advanced fiber optic sensors for special applications

Fiber optic sensors – used in critical applications like detecting fires in tunnels, pinpointing leaks in pipelines and predicting landslides – are about to get even faster and more accurate.

EPFL engineers have developed an advanced encoding and decoding system that allows fiber optic sensors to send data up to 100 times faster and over a wider area. “Unlike conventional sensors that take measurements at a given point, like thermometers, fiber optic sensors record data all along a fiber,” says Luc Thévenaz, a professor at EPFL’s School of Engineering and head of the Group for Fibre Optics (GFO). “But the technology has barely improved over the past few years.”

Used widely in safety applications

Fiber optic sensors are commonly used in hazard detection systems, such as to spot cracks in pipelines, identify deformations in civil engineering structures and detect potential landslides on mountain slopes. The sensors can take temperature readings everywhere a fiber is placed, thereby generating a continuous heat diagram of a given site – even if the site stretches for dozens of kilometers. That provides crucial insight into possible accidents before they happen.

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Source: “New fiber optic sensors transmit data up to 100 times faster”, Clara Marc, EPFL News