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An Adaptive Reference Scheme to Extend the Functional Range of Optical Backscatter Reflectometry in Extreme Environments...

by Daniel C Sweeney, Adrian M Schrell, Christian M Petrie
Publication Type
Journal Name
IEEE Sensors Journal
Publication Date
Page Numbers
498 to 509

Optical frequency domain reflectometry (OFDR) measurements are performed by recording the interference pattern of light backscattered by density fluctuations or Bragg gratings along the length of an optical fiber. Changes in local temperature or strain in the fiber cause shifts in the backscattered light spectrum, which can be calibrated to the applied temperature or strain. Comparing the backscattered optical spectra from each reflection site with a reference (unstrained) spectrum allows for quantification of local spectral shifts. While mature OFDR-based technologies can provide high-precision spatially distributed measurements over kilometer lengths, the post-processing approaches used to recover spectral shifts from raw optical intensity data can limit the use of OFDR in harsh environments. This paper presents a novel approach to post-processing OFDR data which extends the usability of optical fibers exposed to harsh environments. This approach is the first to use the spectral shift quality, calculated for two OFDR measurements, to identify an appropriate reference scan from which the spectral shift can be determined. Three experimental data sets are used to test the algorithm: (1) an optical fiber heated to >950°C, (2) an aluminum-embedded optical fiber under strain from differential thermal expansion, and (3) an optical fiber exposed to a total neutron flux of 2×10^13 n/cm^2 /s over 40 hours in a nuclear test reactor. Results show that using a metric of quality to select an appropriate reference measurement extends the functional range of OFDR strain and temperature sensors. Furthermore, this algorithm can be applied to existing OFDR data.