Distributed feedback fiber laser strain sensors

Cranch, G.A. and Flockhart, Gordon M.H. and Kirkendall, C.K. (2008) Distributed feedback fiber laser strain sensors. IEEE Sensors Journal, 8 (7). pp. 1161-1172. ISSN 1530-437X

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Abstract

The distributed feedback (DFB) fiber laser strain sensor has demonstrated strain resolution comparable to that obtained from high-performance fiber-optic interferometry. This manuscript describes the characteristics and performance of this fiber laser strain sensor and discusses the technological developments necessary to obtain comparable performance from a multiplexed array of laser sensors. The design of the Bragg grating and doped fiber are discussed, where possible providing simplified equations to quantify the relevant design parameters. Techniques based on fiber-optic interferometry to decode the wavelength shifts of the laser are presented and potential noise sources are described. Measurements conducted on a test laser demonstrate the capability of the DFB fiber laser to resolve effective length changes to less than 0.76 fm/Hz1/2 at 2 kHz. The accuracy of the strain measurement, calculated by subtracting the output of two lasers subjected to the same strain, is found to be less than 1%. Issues relating to multiplexing lasers, such as pump power depletion and optical feedback, are described along with methods to maximize the number of lasers serially multiplexed on a single fiber. Finally, the strain transduction mechanism and methods to mount the laser sensor are described. It is shown that for certain applications, the DFB fiber laser sensor provides significant performance benefits when compared with remotely interrogated fiber-optic interferometric sensing techniques.