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Fiber Optic Sensors (F.O.

Presented by: Mohamed Yousef Mousa al-Dmour Yousef Abu-Risheh Wesam

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Introduction Basic Concept Intensiometric Fiber Optic Sensor Interferometric Fiber Optic Sensor Application Appendix



Over the past twenty years; two major product revolutions have taken place due to the growth of the optoelectronics and fiber optic communications industries. The optoelectronics industry has brought about such products as compact disc players, laser printers, bar code scanners and laser pointers. The fiber optic communication industry has literally revolutionized the telecommunication industry by providing higher performance, more reliable telecommunication links with ever decreasing bandwidth cost. This revolution is bringing about the benefits of high volume production to component users and a true information superhighway built of glass. In parallel with these developments F.O.S technology has been a major user of technology associated with the optoelectronic and fiber optic communication industry. Many of the components associated with these industries were often developed for F.O.S applications. F.O.S technology in turn has often been driven by the development and subsequent mass production of components to support these industries. The advantages of F.O.S are freedom from EMI, wide bandwidth, compactness, geometric versatility and economy. In general, FOS is characterized by high sensitivity when compared to other types of sensors. It is also passive in nature due to the dielectric construction.


Basic Concept:

The fiber optic communication system has, as its most basic arrangement, a light source, an active or electro-optic modulator, the optical fiber, and a detector. This also would comprise the basis of a F.O.S system, except that a passive modulator or a sort of measurement device replaces the electro-optic modulator. The light source is most commonly a light emitting diode (LED) or laser diode. The light proceeds through the fiber under the principles of total internal reflection. Then the light is collected with a photodiode, CCD array, or other electronic light detection device. In the case of measuring strain, temperature, pressure etc., the need arises for a method of modulating the light with the desired physical parameter. A F.O.S measures its environment through physical mechanisms that modulate the light signal. This can be achieved through the fiber itself in the case of an intrinsic sensor, or outside the fiber as in an extrinsic sensor. Various F.O.S can be organized into various groups by the method in which they measure physical parameters.

There are three basic ways to classify fiber optic sensors,

Class 1: (Sensor Configuration) Intrinsic Sensor:

The fiber itself acts as the sensing medium, i.e., the propagating light never leaves the fiber and is altered in some way by an external phenomenon. Intrinsic sensors are generally classified as distributed sensors, which means that measurements can be made anywhere along the fiber axis

Figure 1 : Intrinsic fiber optic sensors

Extrinsic Sensor:
The fiber merely acts as a light delivery and collection system (as Black Box), i.e., the propagating light leaves the fiber, is altered in some way, and is collected by the same (or another) fiber. Extrinsic sensors are usually located in specific locations, and as such are classified as localized sensors.

Figure 2: Extrinsic fiber optic sensors

Class 2: (The Method of Light Modulation) Intensiometric :

Changes light intensity with the measuring. Intensiometric sensors offer the advantage of low cost and simplicity of operation but in many cases lack the sensitivity to make high accuracy measurements.

Interferometric :
change the phase, or modal properties with the physical parameter being measured

Class 3: (The Basis of Their Application) Physical sensors

(e.g. measurement of temperature, stress, etc.);

Chemical sensors
(e.g. measurement of pH content, gas analysis, spectroscopic studies, etc.);

Bio-medical sensors
(inserted via catheters or endoscopes which measure blood flow, glucose content and so on)


Intensiometric Fiber Optic Sensor

In this case, the signal to be measured (the measurand), intensity (amplitude) modulates the light carried by an optical fiber. For this class of sensors a normalized modulation index (m) can be defined as

Where, I = change in optical power as a result of modulation by the measurand; I0 = optical power reaching the detector when there is no modulation; and P = perturbation (measurand).

The sensor response expressed as a differential voltage per unit change in measurand is given by

where, q = detector responsivity (A/W); R = load resistance.

The limiting performance is reached when the signal voltage (power) is equal to the noise voltage (power). There are many noise sources within the detector as also in the processing circuits. For purposes of estimating the sensor performance, one usually considers the quantum limit of detection i.e.; the fluctuations in the photon field being detected is the ultimate limit. We can class the sensors based on intensity modulation into subclasses as follows: 3.1. Intensity based fiber optic sensors is based on the displacement & acceptance angle modulation. Figure 3 shows a simple closure or vibration sensor that consists of two optical fibers that are held in close proximity to each other. Light is injected into one of the optical fibers and when it exits the light expands into a cone of light whose angle depends on the difference between the index of refraction of the core and cladding of the optical fiber. The amount of light captured by the second optical fiber depends on its acceptance angle and the distance d between the optical fibers. When the distance d is modulated, it in turn results in an intensity modulation of the light captured.

Figure 3: Closure and vibration fiber optic sensors based on numerical aperture can be used to support door closure indicators.

A variation on this type of sensor is shown in Figure 4. Here a mirror is used that is flexibly mounted to respond to an external effect such as pressure. As the mirror position shifts the effective separation between the optical fibers shift with a resultant intensity modulation. These types of sensors are useful for such applications as door closures where a reflective strip, in combination with an optical fiber acting to input and catch the output reflected light, can be used.

Figure 4: Numerical aperture fiber sensor based on a flexible mirror can be used to measure small vibrations and displacements.

By arranging two optical fibers in line, a simple translation sensor can be configured as in Figure 5. The output from the two detectors can be proportioned to determine the translational position of the input fiber.

Figure 5: Fiber optic sensor based on numerical aperture uses the ratio of the output on the detectors to determine the position of the input fiber.

3.2. Intensity based fiber optic sensors is based on the principle of total internal reflection. In the case of the sensor in Figure 6, light propagates down the fiber core and hits the angled end of the fiber. If the medium into which the angled end of the fiber is placed has a low enough index of refraction then virtually all the light is reflected when it hits the mirrored surface and returns via the fiber. If however the index of refraction of the medium starts to approach that of the glass some of the light propagates out of the optical fiber and is lost resulting in an intensity modulation.

Figure 6: Fiber sensor using critical angle properties of a fiber for pressure/index of refraction measurement

This type of sensor can be used for low resolution measurement of pressure or index of refraction changes in a liquid or gel with one to ten percent accuracy. Variations on this method have also been used to measure liquid level as shown by the probe configuration of Figure 7. When the liquid level hits the reflecting prism the light leaks into the liquid greatly attenuating the signal.

Figure 7: Liquid level sensor based on total internal reflection detects the presence or absence of liquid by the presence or absence of a return light signal.

3.3. Intensity based fiber optic sensors is based on micro-bend loss modulation Another way that light may be lost from an optical fiber is when the bend radius of the fiber exceeds the critical angle necessary to confine the light to the core area and there is leakage into the cladding. Micro-bending of the fiber locally can cause this to result with resultant intensity modulation of light propagating through an optical fiber. A series of micro-bend based fiber sensors have been built to sense vibration, pressure and other environmental effects. Figure 8 shows a typical layout of this type of device consisting of a light source, a section of optical fiber positioned in a microbend transducer designed to intensity modulate light in response to an environmental effect and a detector. In some cases the micro-bend transducer can be implemented by using special fiber cabling or optical fiber that is simply optimized to be sensitive to micro-bending loss.

Figure 8: Micro-bend fiber sensors are configured So that an environmental effect results in an increase or decrease in loss through the transducer due to light loss resulting from small bends in the fiber.


Intensity based fiber optic sensors is the grating based device

One last example of an intensity based sensor is the grating based device shown in Figure 9. Here an input optical light beam is collimated by a lens and passes through a dual grating system. One of the gratings is fixed while the other moves. With acceleration the relative position of the gratings changes resulting in an intensity modulated signal on the output optical fiber.

Figure 9: Grating based fiber intensity sensors measure vibration or acceleration via a highly sensitive shutter effect.


Limitation of Intensity based fiber optic sensor

Intensity based fiber optic sensors have a series of limitations imposed by variable losses in the system that are not related to the environmental effect to be measured. Potential error sources include variable losses due to connectors and splices, microbending loss, macrobending loss, and mechanical creep and misalignment of light sources and detectors. To circumvent these problems many of the successful higher performance intensity based fiber sensors employ dual wavelengths. One of the wavelengths is used to calibrate out all of the errors due to undesired intensity variations by passing the sensing region. An alternative approach is to use fiber optic sensors that are inherently resistant to errors induced by intensity variations. In the next section a series of spectrally based fiber sensors that have this characteristic are discussed.


interferometric Fiber Optic Sensor

One of the areas of greatest interest has been in the development of high performance interferometeric fiber optic sensors. An interferometric sensor is based on the detection of changes in the phase of light emerging out of a single mode fiber. In the case of a fiber the phase change in general is given by,

where the three phase terms on the RHS are due to the length, the index and the guide geometry variations, respectively. The phase change is converted into an intensity change using interferometric schemes (Mach-Zehnder, Michelson, Fabry-Perot or Sagnac forms). In a simple scheme only the sensing and reference arms are made of fibers, while the rest are made of bulk optic components. However the use of either all-fiber or integrated optic components can provide better stability and compactness compared to their bulk counterparts. Interferometric fiber optic sensors are by far the most commonly used sensors since they offer the best performance. They have found application as acoustic (e.g. hydrophones), rotation (eg., gyroscope), strain, temperature, chemical , biological and a host of other types of sensors. The phase change of light propagating through a fiber of length l and propagation constant = ko n, is given by

The change in phase due to a unit perturbation such as pressure change is given by,

where n = refractive index, and a = radius of the fiber. The change in , due to radius variations is very small and can be neglected. The change in refractive index can be obtained from the the index variation due to photoelastic effect as,

where pijhl is the photoelastic tensor and hl is the strain. In the case of an optical fiber made of isotropic glass there are only two independent photoelastic constants p11 and p12.


The above analysis can be generalized and extended to obtain the induced phase changes in an optical fiber due to pressure, temperature or strain variations. The normalized phase changes are as given below.

where, L= length of the fiber, P = change in hydrostatic pressure; p11, , p12 = photoelastic constants; n = Poisson's ratio; E = Young's modulus; a = linear expansion coefficient; S = strain; = wavelength of light in free space; n = refractive index; a = core radius of the fiber; = rate of change of propagation constant with core radius; T = change in temperature. The exact numerical value obtainable in each case depends on the type of fiber used. For typical pure silica fibers the phase sensitivities obtainable per meter are about 10 radians per bar pressure change, 105 radian per degree centigrade change and 11.5 radians per longitudinal strain.



The Sagnac Interferometer (fiber optic gyroscope):

The Sagnac interferometer has been principally used to: 1. Measure rotation and is a replacement for ring laser gyros and mechanical gyros. 2. It may also be employed to measure time varying effects such as acoustics, vibration and slowly varying phenomenon such as strain. By using multiple interferometer configurations it is possible to employ the Sagnac interferometer as a distributed sensor capable of measuring the amplitude and location of a disturbance. The single most important application of F.O.S in terms of commercial value is the fiber optic gyro. It was recognized very early that the fiber optic gyro offered the prospect of an all solid-state inertial sensor with no moving parts, unprecedented reliability, and had the prospect of being very low cost. The potential of the fiber optic gyro is being realized as several manufacturers worldwide are producing them in large quantities to support automobile navigation systems, pointing and tracking of satellite antennas, inertial measurement systems for commuter aircraft and missiles, and as the backup guidance system for the Boeing 777. They are also being baselined for such future programs as the Commanche helicopter and are being developed to support long duration space flights. While mechanical gyros work on the principle of Newton's laws of motion, it is a different phenomenon in the case of an optical gyro. Here interferometry plays a major role in the form of Sagnac effect. Essentially, the Sagnac principle is a phase modulation technique and can be explained as follows: Two counter propagating beams, (one clockwise, CW, and another counterclockwise, CCW) arising from the same source, propagate inside an interferometer along the same closed path. At the output of the interferometer the CW and CCW beams interfere to produce a fringe pattern which shifts if a rotation rate is applied along an axis perpendicular to the plane of the path of the beam. Thus, the CW and CCW beams experience a relative phase difference which is proportional to the rotation rate. Consider a hypothetical interferometer, with a circular path of radius R as shown in Fig-10

Figure-10 Sagnac Interferometer principle 12

When the interferometer is stationary, the CW and CCW propagating beams recombine after a time period given by, .

where R is the radius of the closed path and c is the velocity of light. But, if the interferometer is set into rotation with an angular velocity, rad/sec about an axis passing through the center and normal to the plane of the interferometer, the beams re-encounter the beam splitter at different times. The CW propagating beam traverses a path length slightly greater (by s) than 2 R to complete one round trip. The CCW propagating beam traverses a path length slightly lesser than 2 R in one round trip. If the time taken for CW and CCW trips are designated as T+ and T-, then,

The difference yields:

With the consideration that, c2 > > (R )2

The round trip optical path difference is given by

and the phase difference is given by

or more generally If the closed path consists of many turns of fiber, is given by where N = number of turns of fiber, each of radius R, and L = total length of the fiber configuration fiber optic gyro which ensures perfect reciprocity is shown in fig-11.


Figure 11. Minimum configuration fiber optic gyro.


The Mach-Zehnder

One of the great advantages of all fiber interferometers, such as Mach-Zehnder in particular, is that they have extremely flexible geometry's and high sensitivity that allow the possibility of a wide variety of high performance elements and arrays as shown in Figure 12

Figure12: Flexible geometry's of interferometeric fiber optic sensors transducers are one of the features of fiber sensors that are attractive to designers configuring special purpose sensors.

Figure 13 shows the basic elements of a Mach-Zehnder interferometer, which are a light source/coupler module, a transducer and a homodyne demodulator. The light source module usually consists of a long coherence length isolated laser diode, a beam splitter to produce two light beams and a means of coupling the beams to the two legs of the transducer. The transducer is configured to sense an environmental effect by isolating one light beam from the environmental effect and using the action of the environmental effect on the transducer is to induce an optical path length difference between the two light beams. Typically a homodyne demodulator is used to detect the difference in optical path length (various heterodyne schemes have also been used).


Figure 13: The basic elements of the fiber optic Mach-Zehnder interferometer are a light source module to split a light beam into two paths, a transducer used to cause an environmentally dependent differential optical path length between the two light beams, and a demodulator that measures the resulting path length difference between the two light beams.

One of the basic issues with the Mach-Zehnder interferometer is that the sensitivity will vary as a function of the relative phase of the light beams in the two legs of the interferometer

5. Application
Fiber optic sensors are being developed and used in two major ways. The first is as a direct replacement for existing sensors where the fiber sensor offers significantly improved performance, reliability, safety and/or cost advantages to the end user. For the case of direct replacement, the inherent value of the fiber sensor, to the customer, has to be sufficiently high to displace older technology. Because this often involves replacing technology the customer is familiar with, the improvements must be substantial. The most obvious example of a fiber optic sensor succeeding in this area is the fiber optic gyro, which is displacing both mechanical and ring laser gyros for medium accuracy devices. As this technology matures it can be expected that the fiber gyro will dominate large segments of this market. Significant development efforts are underway in the United States in the area of flyby light where conventional electronic sensor technology are targeted to be replaced by equivalent fiber optic sensor technology that offers sensors with relative immunity to electromagnetic interference, significant weight savings and safety improvements.


In manufacturing, fiber sensors are being developed to support process control. Oftentimes the selling points for these sensors are improvements in environmental ruggedness and safety, especially in areas where electrical discharges could be hazardous. One other area where fiber optic sensors are being mass-produced is the field of medicine, where they are being used to measure blood gas parameters and dosage levels. Because these sensors are completely passive they pose no electrical shock threat to the patient and their inherent safety has lead to a relatively rapid introduction. The automotive industry, construction industry and other traditional users of sensors remain relatively untouched by fiber sensors, mainly because of cost considerations. This can be expected to change as the improvements in optoelectronics and fiber optic communications continue to expand along with the continuing emergence of new fiber optic sensors.

The second area is the development and deployment of fiber optic sensors in new market areas. New market areas present opportunities where equivalent sensors do not exist. New sensors, once developed, will most likely have a large impact in these areas. A prime example of this is in the area of fiber optic smart structures. Fiber optic sensors are being embedded into or attached to materials (1) during the manufacturing process to enhance process control systems, (2) to augment nondestructive evaluation once parts have been made, (3) to form health and damage assessment systems once parts have been assembled into structures and (4) to enhance control systems. A basic fiber optic smart structure system is shown in Figure 14


Figure 14. Fiber optic smart structure systems consist of optical fiber sensors embedded or attached to parts sensing environmental effects that are multiplexed and directed down. The effects are then sent through an optical fiber to an optical/electronic signal processor that in turn feeds the information to a .control system that may or may not act on the information via a fiber link to an actuator Fiber optic sensors can be embedded in a panel and multiplexed to minimize the number of leads. The signals from the panel are fed back to an optical/electronic processor for decoding. The information is formatted and transmitted to a control system which could be augmenting performance or assessing health. The control system would then act, via a fiber optic link, to modify the structure in response to the environmental effect. Figure 15 shows how the system might be used in manufacturing. Here fiber sensors are attached to a part to be processed in an autoclave. Sensors could be used to monitor internal temperature, strain, and degree of cure. These measurements could be used to control the autoclaving process, improving yield and the quality of the parts.

Figure 14 Smart manufacturing systems Interesting areas for health and damage assessment systems are on large structures such as buildings, bridges, dams, aircraft and spacecraft. In order to support these types of structures it will be necessary to have very large numbers of sensors that are rapidly reconfigurable and redundant. It will also be absolutely necessary to demonstrate the value and cost effectiveness of these systems to the end users. One approach to this problem is to use fiber sensors that have the potential to be manufactured cheaply in very large quantities while offering superior performance characteristics. Two candidates that are under investigation are the fiber gratings and etalons described in the prior sections. Both offer the advantages of spectrally based sensors and have the prospect of rapid in line manufacture. In the case of the fiber grating, the early demonstration of fiber being written into it as it is being pulled has been especially impressive.


Fundamentals of Light Propagation in Light Guides
Fiber Optic light guides are media whose transverse dimension (diameter, thickness) can be very small, typically 10 m to 1 mm. They are very flexible and can be produced in virtually any desired length. The material is usually glass, quartz or plastic. For special applications, other exotic materials such as liquid light guides, sapphire, fluoride or calcogenide may be used. There are some unavoidable requirements for good light transmission, such as pure glass materials for the core and cladding and high transparency for the spectrum of interest. Minimal optical dispersion is also desired. Process parameters such as glass transformation temperature, viscosity, inclusions and chemical affinity dictate the economics and quality of the fiber product. Light launched into a fiber will after a given length reach the core material boundary and pass to another medium (glass, air, etc.). Depending on the incident angle, some of the energy will be refracted outward (leaky modes) and some will reflect back into the core material (Figure A).

Fig A.: Light transmission in Medium with n1 > n2

Total Internal Reflection

When the outer medium is less optically dense (lower index of refraction) than the core material, there is a distinct angle for which no light is refracted (Figure B). Light is completely reflected back into the core material (Total Internal Reflection). Maximum light can only be transmitted through the light guide if total internal reflection occurs at the core-clad interface. In this case, > Min, where Min is the angle of incidence for which = 90.


Fig. B: Light transmission Medium n1 with total reflection of the transmitted ray; The light guide has a cladding material n2 ; n .. Index of refraction for the coupling medium (usually air; n = 1)

Numerical Aperture of a Light Guide

Per the law of refraction, total reflection at the core/clad interface obeys:

Max is the largest angle the fiber can accept. The Numerical Aperture, NA, of the light guide, describes this maximum angle:

All angles, Max or Min, will be transmitted by the fiber with larger angles resulting as leaky modes (by refraction at the core/clad interface).

Guided Light Outside the Core Medium

Clad fibers are an absolute necessity for transmitting light over long distance. If no cladding would be used, the environment (atmosphere, gases, dirt) would be the cladding material. Absorption would drastically reduce the transmitted luminous flux. One should note that for total internal reflection, a portion of the energy in the electric field penetrates medium 2 (evanescence field, Figure C). Typically the penetration depth is 5 times the respective wavelength.


Fig. C: The electromagnetic field penetrates the cladding glass at the point of total internal reflection. The penetration depth is z

To simplify matters, subsequent mathematical descriptions of light transmission in waveguides are related to planar waveguide-configurations. Equation gives the penetration depth of a electromagnetic wave (transverse) in medium n2 (for planar light guides):

Should reach the critical angle for total internal reflection, the penetration depth z becomes . If = 90, then z = n1/ (2 NA). The fact that a portion of the energy is transmitted in the cladding places certain demand on the cladding material. Further, it should be noted that the reflected wave experiences a phase shift dependent on .

Phase Shift of Total Reflection

Fig. D: Phase Shift, ,after Total - Reflection

The phase shift, immediately after the reflection, causes the sine wave of the spreading ray to wander with the same periodicity (frequency) (Fig. 5). The phase shift, ( ), repeats every 2 .


Figure D schematically shows the phase shift for transversal electric wave modes (TE-Modes):

For the sake of completeness, it should be stated that transversal magnetic wave modes (TM) exist orthogonal to the electric wave modes (TE). Hence, for a mode number n there are two propagation wave modes (TEn and TMn).

References: 1. E. Udd, Editor, Fiber Optic Sensors: An Introduction for

Engineers and Scientists, Wiley, New York, 1991

2. The Effect of Transverse Load on Fiber Bragg Grating

Measurements, Stephen A. Mastro , May 2000


A.Selvarajan Chairman Department of Electrical Communication Engineering Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore - 560 012.