Time domain reflectometry (TDR) techniques for the design of distributed sensors

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Virginia Tech

Parametric design models were created to optimize cable sensitivities in a structural health-monitoring system. Experiments were also conducted to determine the sensitivity of a working system. The system consists of time domain reflectometry (TDR) signal processing equipment and specially designed sensing cables. The TDR equipment sends a high-frequency electric pulse (in the gigahertz range) along the sensing cable. Any change in electric impedance along the cable reflects some portion of the electric pulse back to the TDR equipment. The time delay, amplitude, and shape of the reflected pulse provides the means to respectively locate, determine the magnitude, and indicate the nature of the change in impedance. The change in the sensing cable impedance may be caused by cable elongation (change in resistance), shear deformation (change in capacitance), corrosion of the cable or the materials around the cable (change in inductance), etc.

The sensing cables are an essential part of the health-monitoring system because the cable design parameters determine the cable impedance sensitivity to structural changes. By using parametric design models, the optimum cable parameters can be determined for specific cases and used to select or design an appropriate cable. Proof-of-concept and resolution experiments were also conducted to provide, respectively, verification and sensitivity of the system.