Compact, Temperature-Tuned OFDR Laser
Because OFDR-based fiber interrogation systems rely upon interferometry between sensors with respect to a unique reference length, the excitation source (laser) must lase at a single longitudinal mode (SLM). If the excitation source contains multiple modes, the resulting beat frequency becomes a super-position of the multiple frequencies caused by the modes; as a result, the sensor cannot be accurately defined in the Fourier domain. For OFDR systems with high sensing ranges, a continuous wavelength tunable laser must be used to accommodate the resonant wavelength shift of the fiber sensors due to environmental changes. External cavity lasers (ECLs) have been used due to their narrow linewidth and ability to lase at a SLM with no mode-hopping between steps. However, the mechanical complexity associated with tuning, susceptibility to vibration and shock, and high price point leave much to be desired. To overcome the limitations of OFDR-based FOSS systems resulting from non-ideal excitation sources, NASA has developed a narrow linewidth solid-state laser based on the Distributed Feedback (DFB) laser. NASAs laser is continuously tuned by manipulating the laser cavitys temperature via a thermal-electric cooler feedback system. This continuous wavelength tuning generates a clean clock signal within an auxiliary interferometer, while the laser simultaneously interrogates multiple FBGs to produce a clean sensing interferometer. A Fourier domain spectrograph is used to show the unique frequency (i.e., location) of each FBG. While NASAs excitation source provides several performance advantages over conventional lasers used in OFDR, it is also highly compact and one eighth the cost of the ECLs traditionally used as excitation sources in OFDR-based systems. The laser has no moving parts, which also substantially improves system reliability. Originally developed to demonstrate a low-cost interrogator for liquid level sensing in oil tanks, NASAs compact, temperature-tuned OFDR laser can be applied wherever OFDR-based fiber optic sensing is desirable. Additional applications may include temperature distribution sensing, strain sensing, pressure sensing, and more. NASA AFRC has strong subject matter expertise in fiber optic sensing systems, and has developed several patented technologies that are available for commercial licensing. For more information about the full portfolio of FOSS technologies, visit: https://technology-afrc.ndc.nasa.gov/featurestory/fiber-optic-sensing
Solid State Carbon Dioxide (CO<sub>2</sub>) Sensor
The technology is a solid state, Carbon Dioxide (CO<sub>2</sub>) sensor configured for sensitive detection of CO<sub>2</sub> having a concentration within the range of about 100 Parts per Million (ppm) and 10,000 ppm in both dry conditions and high humidity conditions (e.g., > 80% relative humidity). The solid state CO<sub>2</sub> sensor achieves detection of high concentrations of CO<sub>2</sub> without saturation and in both dynamic flow mode and static diffusion mode conditions. The composite sensing material comprises Oxidized Multi-Walled Carbon Nanotubes (O-MWCNT) and a metal oxide, for example O-MWCNT and iron oxide (Fe2O3) nanoparticles. The composite sensing material has an inherent resistance and corresponding conductivity that is chemically modulated as the level of CO<sub>2</sub> increases. The CO<sub>2</sub> gas molecules absorbed into the carbon nanotube composites cause charge-transfer and changes in the conductive pathway such that the conductivity of the composite sensing material is changed. This change in conductivity provides a sensor response for the CO<sub>2</sub> detection. The solid state CO<sub>2</sub> sensor is well suited for automated manufacturing using robotics and software controlled operations. The solid state CO<sub>2</sub> sensor does not utilize consumable components or materials and does not require calibration as often as conventional CO<sub>2</sub> sensors. Since the technology can be easily integrated into existing programmable electronic systems or hardware systems, the calibration of the CO<sub>2</sub> sensor can be automated.