New improved accelerometers based on fiber Bragg grating or FBG technology by fiber optic sensors allow performing railway structural health monitoring in both frequency and acceleration range. Such FBG accelerometers provide such advantage as immunity to electromagnetic interference, herewith, the fiber accelerometer offers multiplexed data information along very long lengths of a railway or pipeline for the in situ single-headend measurements of such parameters as vibration, strain, temperature, and fault locations or other challenges.
Thus, distributed sensors based on fiber optic technology are considered to be a better sensing device for structural health monitoring, compared to other sensing systems. It should be noted that FBG accelerometer systems are able to perform “perimeter security and other applications where events span frequencies <700 Hz and acceleration shock values of <30 G with sensitivities of about 16 pm/G” among various fiber optic sensing systems.
Nevertheless, the application in railway structural health monitoring requires optical fiber sensors that offer a higher level of acceleration peak value and broader frequency ranges. The developed optical fiber accelerometer offers the following parameters: >40 G acceleration values, 8 pm/G sensitivity for frequency values up to 1 kHz and the device is operable up to 2.5 kHz. The developed fiber optic sensor was already tested in a railway application and demonstrated successful results.
Additionally, it is possible to change the optical fiber cross-section to make the stress-induced measurement optimized, depending on the required parameters. For example, this FBG accelerometer has a commercially available length (about 0.35 m), a 15 mm diameter, 50/50 splitter (3 dB coupler), a 56 g stainless-steel mass (25 mm diameter, 15 mm height).
The principle of FBG accelerometer operation is based on the lateral forces cause birefringence changes that directly correlate with force parameters, such as vibration. Therefore, FBG accelerometer installed on a moving train enables to monitor the reflection spectrum in real-time to determine various problems with the track of a railway such as cracks, corrugations, or weak points.
Finally, the developed microstructured optical fiber used in new types of FBG accelerometers increases the level of measurement sensitivity of available systems up to 5X, and it is planned to apply the optical fiber to manufacture additional FBG accelerometers for field tests. Herewith, the FBG accelerometer is regarded as a highly important sensing device in an all-optical fiber sensing network that offers a great amount of data information resulting in efficient structural health monitoring of railways.
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