Optical fiber modal domain sensors for dynamic strain measurement

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Virginia Tech

Modern engineering structures often incorporate new materials and complex designs for which existing techniques for nondestructive evaluation prove inadequate, especially for dynamic and in-service measurements. At the same time, optical fiber sensors have been identified as an ideal candidate for embedded and attached measurements of material parameters such as strain, temperature, or state of damage. In particular, sensors based on optical fiber modal interference phenomena have been shown to be capable of highly sensitive detection of static and dynamic strain.

This work reviews known applications of modal domain sensing to measurement science to date, and discusses the principles behind the method. A general expression for the intensity distribution emerging from a multimode fiber is formulated, covering both few mode and highly multimode fibers, and new expressions for their sensitivity to both radial and axial strain are derived. Optimized multimode fibers are seen to show an intrinsic phase sensitivity which rivals or even surpasses that of the single mode interferometer, especially in the case of applied radial strain. The use of modal domain sensors for real-time ultrasonic wave transduction is described as a particular application to NDE, with experimental results being presented with regard to acoustic emission monitoring as well as the detection and analysis of shock waves due to impact. Finally, optimization schemes and alternatives for such sensors are addressed, and recommendations for future work are raised.