Distributed acoustic sensing for railway structural health monitoring

DAS for railway monitoringThe principle of distributed acoustic sensing (DAS) operation is based on the processes occurring in fiber optic cables. To be more precise, sound waves falling at the fiber cable change the reflection of laser beam pulses inside it. Thus, these changes are possible to be detected. 

Specially developed algorithms allow converting a measurable backscatter signal trace (signature) into valuable information, for example, about moving rolling stock, about people moving along or near tracks, or other actions, such as earthmoving operations.

A common application of acoustic sensors

The application of DAS-based systems becomes widespread, for instance, in the oil and gas industry, as well as in the border protection due to these technical capabilities.

Any single-mode fiber can be quickly and easily converted into a series of “virtual microphones” by distributed acoustic sensing. This requires only minimal exposure to the ends of the optical fibers

Railway application of DAS

Since the majority of railway tracks already have fiber optic cables, the above-mentioned possibilities of DAS application in the railway infrastructure can be performed to a large extent using existing resources.

If an existing fiber optic cable already laid close to the railway infrastructure is used, it is possible to monitor trains, auxiliary rolling stock, track crews, strangers near tracks, or natural influences on the infrastructure. 

Accordingly, DAS technology can find application in tracking systems for the movement of trains, monitoring the track and rolling stock, as well as in the protection of railway infrastructure.

Only one set of DAS systems enables to monitor processes and components on and off track for 40 km. It is possible to combine many such units into a common sensing system to cover extensive networks of railway tracks. At the same time, the DAS system operates with an accuracy of 10 m and provides information about the location of the recorded event on the site and GPS coordinates.

Opportunities in acoustic sensing

Several acoustic sensing sets can be combined into a single system to control longer tracks. The possibilities of the co-use of distributed acoustic sensing and wheel hole registration systems were already studied to meet the requirements of the railroads, taking into account the considered limitations.

The application of advanced axis counters is caused by the need to detect individual axes and the train location on a particular track in compliance with safety conditions.

Unlike track circuits, directly establishing the free or occupation part of the track, the axis counting system operates indirectly. If the track part was free in the initial period, and then the number of wheelsets entering and leaving coincided, the part is registered as free from railroad rolling stock. If this condition is not fulfilled, the part is considered occupied.

The data combination from both sensing systems creates a whole variety of new possibilities by using the generated information from fiber optic acoustic sensors. This technical solution of acoustic sensing makes it possible to detect a train to a concrete track precisely. 

Also, DAS technology provides an even more accurate determination of the train length. Moreover, this combination of sensing systems offers the opportunity to localize events, for example, you can determine which axis has a slider. In this combination, DAS can also be used on sections of railway tracks with complex track development, where several parallel tracks are connected by operations.

The user interface system of distributed acoustic sensing displays in a convenient form both data received directly from the DAS system and information generated using combined technical solutions, including additional axis counters and a system for registering the wheel hole of railroad rolling stock.

Conditions detected by the DAS system and a combined technical solution are carefully classified and all received information is provided in a visual form. This serves as the basis for the planning and implementation of activities arising from the detection results.

Besides, the data collected by distributed acoustic sensing can be redirected directly to mobile end-user devices. Nevertheless, they can also be transmitted, for example, to unmanned aerial vehicles, which are sent to the appropriate location using available GPS data. Thus, the DAS system allows you to quickly respond to a variety of events.

The interference of both signals will make it possible to more accurately correlate information about the state of train components with a specific location in the future, for example, it will be easy to establish which axis has the slider on it. New possibilities are opened up for using DAS technology in complex railway tracks, where several parallel tracks are connected by operations. 

Abilities presented by DAS systems

The system of distributed acoustic sensing allows both monitorings of rolling stock and state track components: the DAS system completely controls the railways and the area around them. Even unforeseen events that are difficult to detect are recognized reliably.

This also applies to fractures of rails, which represent one of the main risks on the railway. This sensing system also detects electrical discharges on air-track lines due to overload, floods, stone falling, falling of trees, and mudflows. Fiber optic acoustic sensors can significantly reduce the number of costly violations of the usual operation in railway transport.

With an increase in the accuracy of event localization, conditions are created for the application of DAS technology in areas with complex track development.

The signals (signatures) recorded during the movement of trains by the axis counters and the acoustic sensors are brought together to determine the exact location.

Parameters provided by acoustic technology

The possibilities of using acoustic sensing technology in railways open up broad prospects for increasing the effectiveness of monitoring infrastructure and rolling stock. Thus, the DAS system provides structural health monitoring information about:

– location of the train;

– direction of the traffic;

– speed;

– time of train arrival;

– the distance between trains;

– rail break;

– slide;

– falling of stones;

– spark discharge in the contact network;

– unauthorized access;

– cable theft;

– vandalism, etc.

Data obtained by axis counters

Axis counters provide information about:

– the state of free/occupation of a track particular section;

– number of axes on the track section;

– speed;

– direction of the traffic;

– diagnostics.

Level of safety and security

An important aspect of railway operation is safety. Security has many indications and affects numerous different areas. DAS provides a comprehensive solution to cope with several tasks – from labor protections to the protection against vandalism.

Distributed acoustic sensing offers railway operators a single solution for the protection of infrastructure and the safety of railway workers, with an extended range and high efficiency.

DAS converts measured signals (signatures) into valuable information, for example, about moving vehicles and individuals. Based on this information, messages are generated about the presence of objects or people, which can be more accurately classified due to the high sensitivity of the sensing system. It also allows for directly recognizing certain actions, for example, earthmoving on the way, and displaying the corresponding alarm messages.

Importance of acoustic sensing for railways

Finally, distributed acoustic sensing systems will change the way that trains are monitored and infrastructure is operated soon. An integrated railway structural health monitoring system is becoming available, which opens up previously unimaginable DAS applications and allows for the implementation of the most challenging ideas in the field of train and operation control.

The use of a distributed acoustic sensing systems for the railway industry opens up wide applications for monitoring the movement of trains, monitoring the condition of equipment, protecting infrastructure, and ensuring the safety of people in real-time.

Advantages of acoustic sensors

Moreover, recent advances in DAS make the sensing systems cost-effective, highly precise, herewith, these acoustic sensors do not require accurate alignment resulting in tuning vibration measurement to a particular point in the optical fiber. Thus, new DAS systems promote the speed of measurement beyond the previously established theoretical limit set by the sensing distance. The technology of new fiber optic acoustic sensors is based on the application of “colored” probe pulses or linear frequency multiplexing.

It should be noted that DAS is a highly reliable technology because it continues its operation even after it has been cut. DAS has the biggest influence in the signaling area, for example,  distributed sensing helps to manage trains by control of their accurate position and motion in real-time. The technology enables to reduce journey times while increasing rail capacity and improving safety.

Of course, the distributed acoustic sensing system continues improving and the improvement will provide quantitative measurement with improved sensitivity and higher spatial resolution on longer lengths of the sensing fiber in the future.

How to find a professional manufacturer of acoustic sensing products?

Optromix is a DAS system manufacturer that provides top of the line distributed acoustic sensing systems suitable for monitoring of commerce networks. If you have any questions or would like to buy a DAS system, please contact us at info@optromix.com

Recent developments in Distributed Acoustic Sensing

developments in DASThe operational principle of distributed acoustic sensing or fiber optic DAS is based on coherent Rayleigh backscattering in an optical fiber. Today the technology of acoustic sensing is regarded as a common technique for structural health monitoring of various dynamic actions in real-time. DAS applications in safety, security, and integrity monitoring systems promote the steady growth of the fiber optic DAS market.

Fiber optic acoustic sensors offer the opportunity to measure various changes in environmental parameters provoked by numerous events over long distances. The applications of DAS technology include transportation, oil and gas, and process control systems, herewith, they continue increasing. Additionally, distributed acoustic sensing allows performing measurements of both slowly changing (for instance, temperature or static strain) and fast-changing parameters (dynamic strain or vibration) providing fast and precise monitoring in real-time.

Therefore, DAS systems for the mentioned measurements are required to pay careful attention. Despite numerous developments that have been made in distributed acoustic sensing to increase the measurement speed over short distances with high spatial resolution, measurements at long distances remain considerably slow. Nevertheless, fiber optic acoustic sensors provide interesting alternatives for fast distributed measurements over long distances.

Such developments in distributed acoustic sensing as “use of high ER pulses to reduce coherence noise, fast denoising in the optical domain using optical pulse coding technique, generation of high ER pulses using nonlinear Kerr effect, and the identification of pulse shapes robust against modulation instability” enable to enhance the performance of fiber optic acoustic sensors.

Moreover, recent advances in DAS make the sensing systems cost-effective, highly precise, herewith, these acoustic sensors do not require accurate alignment resulting in tuning vibration measurement to a particular point in the optical fiber. Thus, new DAS systems promote the speed of measurement beyond the previously established theoretical limit set by the sensing distance. The technology of new fiber optic acoustic sensors is based on the application of “colored” probe pulses or linear frequency multiplexing.

Finally, the improved distributed acoustic sensors have higher spatial resolution due to the use of tweaking of the conventional set up to make the optical noise lower, and more accurate quantitative measurement of an external impact thanks to frequency shift measurements and direct phase demodulation techniques.

Optromix is a DAS system manufacturer that provides top of the line distributed acoustic sensing systems suitable for monitoring of commerce networks. If you have any questions or would like to buy a DAS system, please contact us at info@optromix.com

Distributed acoustic sensing for phase-sensitive OTDR technology

DAS for OTDRThe sensing system is a fundamental device that presents data information about the features of the surrounding environmental conditions to electronic tools. The information obtained through distributed fiber sensing is used for analytical purposes or processed and employed to take specific actions. Herewith, today distributed sensors find widespread application since they are applied in most of the human daily used items.

For instance, distributed optical fiber sensors apply light to probe a kilometer-length optical fiber employed as the sensing system. Thus, distributed sensors allow for the detection of strain or temperature variations along the fiber length. The principle of distributed optical fiber sensor operation is based on “scattering processes happening along with the optical fiber, either Rayleigh stimulated Brillouin or Raman scattering”.

The characteristics of various scattering processes offer different applications to distributed sensors. For example, distributed optical fiber sensors based on Raman technology are regarded as highly efficient temperature sensing devices. Recent developments in sensing technology enable us to reach a better resolution, higher bandwidth, or longer-range operation.

Nowadays new sensing technique to interrogate an optical fiber applying the Rayleigh backscattering process is considered to be very advanced. Such distributed sensors are based on phase-sensitive optical time-domain reflectometry (OTDR) technology, herein, they use a train of linearly-chirped optical pulses resulting in a quite simple conventionally used methodology. Additionally, distributed acoustic sensing for phase-sensitive OTDR technology provides amazing robustness against laser phase noise and a record measured sensitivity.

The technology of distributed acoustic sensing for phase-sensitive OTDR has been experimentally demonstrated a couple of years ago, based on the application of a chirped-pulse as a probe, in an otherwise direct-detection-based standard setup: chirped-pulse (CP-)ΦOTDR. The benefits of DAS systems include intrinsic immunity to fading points and use of direct detection, therefore, distributed acoustic sensing offers reliable high sensitivity measurements.

Finally, DAS technology for OTDR finds its use in diverse applications that include seismology or civil engineering (monitoring of pipelines, train rails, etc.), and new applications based on distributed acoustic or temperature sensing appear everyday. Such a distributed optical fiber sensor can operate in up to 100 km with a low cost-setup, showing performances close to the attainable limits for a given set of signal parameters.

Optromix is a DAS system manufacturer that provides top of the line distributed acoustic sensing systems suitable for monitoring of commerce networks. If you have any questions or would like to buy a DAS system, please contact us at info@optromix.com

FBG sensors for measuring human body temperature

FBG sensors for temperature measurementThe opportunity to measure body temperature plays a crucial role in both physiological studies and clinical investigations. New wearable sensors based on fiber Bragg grating or FBG technology offer such an opportunity in intelligent clothing for human body temperature measurement.

The main purpose of the development is the integration of FBG sensors into functional textiles to enhance the abilities of wearable fiber optic solutions for body temperature monitoring. Thus, the FBG sensing system provides a temperature sensitivity of 150 pm/°C, which is almost 15 times higher than that of a bare fiber Bragg grating.

It should be noted that fiber Bragg grating is regarded as a type of distributed FBG reflector installed in a short segment of optical fiber that reflects particular wavelengths of light and transmits all the others. The FBG technology is used here as an inline optical filter to block specific wavelengths, or as a wavelength-specific reflector.

Additionally,  FBG sensors offer great benefit over electronic sensing systems for the use in intelligent structures, civil engineering, harsh environmental conditions, built structural health monitoring system and other. Distributed temperature sensors based on fiber Bragg gratings measure human body temperature at fiver places: left chest, right chest, left armpit, right armpit, and at the center of the upper back. Herewith, the data information provided by these FBG sensors at five places is not the same because different parts of the human body have different temperatures.

The application of distributed temperature sensors based on FBG technology allows developing a sample of intelligent clothing and testing the heat transmission mechanism from numerous aspects. A new mathematical model of heat transmission for the human skin, the air and clothing has been created. Therefore, FBG sensors provide the theoretical basis of human temperature measurement applying intelligent clothing with distributed temperature sensors and demonstrate the implementation of optical fiber grating into the clothing. 

Finally, the temperature measured by DTS systems can be useful to represent human body temperature in clinics. Nonetheless, it is planned to enlarge “research in intelligent clothing to cover the measuring and recording of real-time physiological information, such as human respiration, heartbeat, blood pressure, and other physiological signals.”

The biomedical application of wearable FBG sensors, which are non-intrusive, non-invasive, and continuously being monitored, is considered to become a highly potential monitoring and diagnostic devices. Thus, these distributed temperature sensors can determine and process physiological signals, extract signal characterization, transmit data, and have other basic options.

Optromix is a manufacturer of innovative fiber optic products for the global market. The company provides the most technologically advanced fiber optic solutions for the clients. Optromix produces a wide range of fiber optic devices, including cutting-edge customized fiber optic Bragg grating product line and fiber Bragg grating sensor systems. Moreover, Optromix is a top choice among the manufacturers of fiber Bragg grating monitoring systems. If you have any questions, please contact us at info@optromix.com