Optical fiber sensors are a very important part of our lives. They sense and alert us of bad situations. They can manage to record important things which are used to determine significant events or changes. For example, sensors are important to regulate environment conditions in areas like the oil field where they are used to monitor seismic conditions and oil activity because it is dangerous for human beings. It is also used to determine the temperature, strain, pressure and other quantities when required in other areas.
Not everything works perfectly. Things that hinder optical fibers are unpredictable situations like earthquakes or explosives. For example, what if an accident takes place in the oil field? How will the crisis team access data then? And how in the world is the optical fiber supposed to do its job if it gets damaged in such situations? These are situations when sensory data is even more vital. Also, what about situations where sensors are difficult to access? Sensors are placed on the wings of airplanes which are not easy to access. Engineers have been tackling such problems by keeping many back-ups in areas where sensors are placed but at the end of the day, this is a very weak solution.
Fortunately through new research and breakthrough, this will not be a problem any longer. The research shows how the sensors can self-heal when damaged. This was developed in North Carolina State University in Raleigh by Kara Peters and Young Song. This newly designed sensor has two small optical fibers with 1/2 millimeter gap in between. The gap contains a reservoir filled with curable UV- resin. The gap stops the sensor from determining or detecting anything. When scientists or researchers want to activate it, all they need to do is shine an ultraviolet beam on the fiber which lets resin fix the cable. Thus, the gap is filled with transparent polymer and as soon as it is completely bridged by the polymer, the sensor starts working and functioning properly.
There are still glitches in this research and much improvement is needed. One glitch is what if something blocks the resin in the reservoir such as debris. Another is that there are chances, due to the shock of an earthquake or explosion, that the optic fibers in it become misaligned. This will stop the resin from properly repairing. Since this is ongoing research, researchers hope to overcome such obstacles as this technology would be very useful in structural monitoring and in places like airplanes and oil fields.
In conclusion, researchers and engineers are working very hard to make this technology better so that it gives us access to data we want in the event of emergencies and unforeseen circumstances. With global warming and an increase in natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes and floods, it is important that we do our best to improve such technology to the best we can. A point to be noted here is that optical fibers are not only used to monitor activities on land, but are also used in the military as well. Therefore advancements in one field would lead to an advancement in another.