Applications of Fiber Laser Sensors

Fiber laser sensors are some of the most robust and reliable laser systems available and are used to optimise operation and safety processes in many different industries. With a meticulous design and manufacturing process required to ensure only the highest level of reliability, they are capable of staying active in many inhospitable environments. We look below at how fiber laser sensors work and some of their application areas.

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Fiber laser sensors, acting like hydrophones, are useful for submarines

What are fiber laser sensors?

Fiber laser sensors have greatly increased in popularity over the last few decades as they are a low-cost, highly sensitive, electrically passive, and highly reliable alternative to many other solutions such as the dye laser or the semiconductor laser. They are also immune to electromagnetic interference and can be easily incorporated into a multiplex signal or system.

The technology has been intensely studied over the past few years, and as such, there have been numerous newly invented fiber technologies to bring better performance and quality to fiber sensing technology. These Sensors can measure a large variety of parameters, such as temperature, strain, refractive index, bending, loading, and liquid level. The fiber laser acts as the optical light source within a sensing element, and can achieve high signal-to-noise ratio, high sensitivity, long distance sensing, and multi-parameter sensing.

What are some of the applications for fiber laser sensors?

Due to their ability to detect and measure a wide range of parameters, fiber laser sensors have uses in multiple industries and sectors. We examine some of these in greater detail below:

Infrastructure

Technology using fiber sensors has been used for structural health monitoring of large-scale infrastructures such as bridges, dams, and tunnels, as well as the monitoring of the efficiency and the performance of the equipment being used. This is also useful for monitoring conditions in other places, such as airplane wings, wind turbines, oil wells, pipelines, and even spacecraft, where the fiber laser sensors can sense shape determination and spacecraft qualification testing. The benefit here is that the sensors can be used both as surface-mounted sensors and embedded sensors within the structure.

Seismic Sensors

One extremely beneficial use for fiber laser sensors is in the development of seismic sensor arrays that can operate in underwater conditions, making it useful in earthquake detection, borehole monitoring, and ocean bottom cabling systems. Acting like a hydrophone, it can detect seismic signals reliably and therefore is also useful in towed array sonar systems, which can typically be found towed behind submarines or surface ships. This is useful for many industries, especially security, military, and oilfield-exploration.

Medical

Fiber sensors can also be used in the medical field to deliver a more efficient patient diagnosis, monitoring and treatment with handy devices such as handheld scanners, which for instance can be used to quickly and reliably detect brain injuries. This can be useful in a variety of different areas, such as up ski slopes or on a battlefield, where quick detection could be vital, and yet sometimes not easily attainable without a device such as the one mentioned above.

Harsh Environments

As well as being able to act as seismic sensors at the bottom of the ocean, fiber laser sensors are also able to withstand incredibly high levels of heat, meaning they can be found in technology such as microwave ovens. They can also handle other harsh environments such as high-voltage, high-power machinery, and so have become useful and necessary sensors for heavy electrical equipment such as generators or motors. They are also much less likely to get damaged if lightning strikes nearby.

Fiber laser sensors are useful in heat detection

Fiber laser sensors are useful in heat detection

As fiber laser sensors can withstand extreme levels of heat, they are useful for oil refineries

Other harsh environments that fiber laser sensors can be found in are oil refineries, grain bins, mines, and chemical processing plants. This is because standard glass fiber still maintains the same performance levels in a variety of different corrosive or high-temperature areas, even if these temperatures reach 450 Fahrenheit. Some special fibers allow this to be extended to 1200 Fahrenheit.

Environmental

Some newer types of fiber laser are able to have a much larger level of wavelength tuning, reaching further into the mid-infrared spectrum than has previously been achieved. This means that it can operate within the same wavelength where many gases, including greenhouse gases, absorb light. Therefore, some fiber laser sensors will be able to detect levels of greenhouse gases from a great distance.

Conclusion

As can be seen, fiber laser sensors are useful in a wide variety of industries due to the many benefits it has compared to other standard types of laser sensors, namely that it can operate in harsh environments, are of low cost and can be small and portable. Despite this, they still maintain high levels of sensitivity and range. If you’d like to hear more on how our fiber lasers can be applied to your industry, get in contact with us here or contact us on +44(0)1489 779 696, or by email at sales@spilasers.com.

 

Image Credits: U.S. Navy and avaxnews

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