Nowadays train accidents often cause severe injuries and even cases of death. Nevertheless, researchers from China have designed new fiber optic sensors that allow measuring acceleration and vibration characteristics on trains. Additionally, this optical fiber technology can be used in a combination with artificial intelligence in order to prevent potential railway accidents and catastrophic train derailments.
To be more precise, the FBG accelerometers are able to monitor problems in the railway track or the train in real-time to detect defects before an accident happens. Such fiber optic devices identify frequencies more than double that of conventional optical fiber accelerometers, making them ideal for monitoring wheel-rail interactions.
The principle of durable FBG sensors’ operation is based on the use of no moving parts, herein, the fiber accelerometers demonstrate good operation in the noisy as well as in high-voltage environmental conditions found in railway field of application. Moreover, the researchers confirm that their novel FBG accelerometers can be applied in other vibration monitoring applications. For example, fiber optic applications include structural health monitoring for buildings and bridges and vibration measurements of aircraft wings.
It should be noted that the researchers have been developing condition-monitoring optical fiber systems for more than 15 years using an all-optical sensing network to continuously monitor crucial railway components. It is planned that these fiber optic sensing systems help change poor efficient traditional railway maintenance routines by predictive maintenance based on actual conditions.
The developed FBG accelerometers demonstrate the following benefits that include:
- immunity to electromagnetic interference;
- long transmission distance;
- no need for electricity.
But a need for FBG sensors for the measurement of various characteristics in railway systems still remain. Traditionally, fiber accelerometers are based on fiber Bragg gratings whose use is limited by 500 Hz vibrations. Therefore, such fiber optic technology was not suitable for the measurement of the wheel-rail interactions that are considered to be an important source of track wear.
Finally, the researchers have developed totally new FBG accelerometer based on a specific optical fiber (a polarization-maintaining photonic crystal fiber). It has been tested by installing the optical fiber device on an in-service train. Thus, the FBG accelerometer demonstrates a similar operation to the piezoelectric accelerometer, but it does not require expensive shielded fiber cables to take the effects of electromagnetic interference down.
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