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Modeling and validation of performance limitations for the optimal design of interferometric and intensity-modulated fiber optic displacement sensors


Optical fiber sensors offer advantages over traditional electromechanical sensors, making them particularly well- suited for certain measurement applications. Generally speaking, optical fiber sensors respond to a desired measurand through modulation of an optical signal's intensity, phase, or wavelength. Practically, non- contacting fiber optic displacement sensors are limited to intensity-modulated and interferometric (or phase- modulated) methodologies. Intensity-modulated fiber optic displacement sensors relate target displacement to a power measurement. The simplest intensity-modulated sensor architectures are not robust to environmental and hardware fluctuations, since such variability may cause changes in the measured power level that falsely indicate target displacement. Differential intensity-modulated sensors have been implemented, offering robustness to such intensity fluctuations, and the speed of these sensors is limited only by the combined speed of the photodetection hardware and the data acquisition system (kHz-GHz). The primary disadvantages of intensity-modulated sensing are the relatively low accuracy ([mu]m-mm for low-power sensors) and the lack of robustness, which consequently must be designed, often with great difficulty, into the sensor's architecture. White light interferometric displacement sensors, on the other hand, offer increased accuracy and robustness. Unlike their monochromatic- interferometer counterparts, white light interferometric sensors offer absolute, unambiguous displacement measurements over large displacement ranges (cm for low- power, 5 mW, sources), necessitating no initial calibration, and requiring no environmental or feedback control. The primary disadvantage of white light interferometric displacement sensors is that their utility in dynamic testing scenarios is limited, both by hardware bandwidth and by their inherent high-sensitivity to Doppler-effects. The decision of whether to use either an intensity-modulated interferometric sensor depends on an appropriate performance function (e.g., desired displacement range, accuracy, robustness, etc.). In this dissertation, the performance limitations of a bundled differential intensity-modulated displacement sensor are analyzed, where the bundling configuration has been designed to optimize performance. The performance limitations of a white light Fabry-Perót displacement sensor are also analyzed. Both these sensors are non- contacting, but they have access to different regions of the performance-space. Further, both these sensors have different degrees of sensitivity to experimental uncertainty. Made in conjunction with careful analysis, the decision of which sensor to deploy need not be an uninformed one

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