Document Type

Theses, Ph.D


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence

Publication Details

A thesis Submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy to School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering, College of Engineering & Built Environment. Technological University Dublin, 2018.


Optical fiber interferometers have been widely employed and investigated for monitoring the changes in both physical and chemical parameters, with the advantages of compact size, light weight, immunity to electromagnetic interference, high sensitivity, capability to work in harsh environments and remote operation capabilities. Among the different kinds of fiber sensors based on interferometry, singlemode-multimode-singlemode (SMS) structures has attracted considerable interest due to their inherent advantages of high sensitivity, ease of fabrication and interconnection to other fiber systems and low cost. However, the challenge is that the sensitivity of the traditional SMS based fiber structure is not sufficient in some cases, for example in bio-chemical applications, where detection of a very small variation in a bio-chemicals’ concentration is required. There is thus a need to investigate how to modify or enhance an SMS structure to achieve ultrahigh sensitivity.

This thesis presents research and its applications concerning approaches to improve the sensitivity and detection accuracy of a traditional SMS fiber structure based sensor. The key achievements of this thesis include: Traditional SMS fiber structure for breathing state monitoring A bend SMS structure is investigated as a breathing sensor by attaching it to a thin plastic film in an oxygen mask. Breath rate can be monitored using this sensor by detecting power variations due to the macro bending applied to the SMS section during each inhalation and exhalation cycles. Different types of breathing conditions including regular and irregular breath patterns can be distinguished. The proposed sensor is capable of working in a strong electromagnetic field and radioactive environment. Tapered small core singlemode fiber (SCSMF) for the detection of refractive index (RI), ammonia, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) A modified SMS structure based on a tapered SCSMF is proposed and investigated with significantly improved RI sensitivity. It is found that the sample with a smaller waist diameter gives higher sensitivity. In the experiment, a maximum sensitivity of 19212.5 nm/RIU (RI unit) in the RI range from 1.4304 to 1.4320 has been demonstrated when the waist diameter of the SCSMF is tapered down to 12.5 μm. The best corresponding theoretical resolution of the proposed sensor is 5.025 × 10-7 RIU which is over 10 times higher than that of many previous reported optical fiber based RI sensors. The proposed structure is capable of monitoring relative humidity level change even without coating of the fiber sensor’s surface with a layer of hygroscopic material.

A silica sol-gel based coating has been used as a sensitive material to ammonia for the first time, by applying it to the surface of the tapered SCSMF for the detection of ammonia in water. The proposed sensor shows an ultra-high sensitivity of 2.47 nm/ppm with short response and recovery time of less than 2 and 5 minutes respectively. The corresponding theoretical detection limit of ammonia in water is calculated to be 4 ppb, which is 3 orders of magnitude improvement compared to the previous reported interferometry based ammonia sensor. In addition, the sensor has good performance in terms of repeatability of measurement and selectivity for sensing ammonia compared to that of other common ions and organic molecules in water. VOCs sensors are also demonstrated by coating a mixture of sol-gel silica and Nile red on the surface of two different types of tapered fiber sensors (tapered SCSMF) and a microfiber coupler (MFC)). The MFC based sensor shows better sensitivities to ethanol and methanol than that based on a tapered SCSMF due to its smaller waist diameter. The detectable gas concentration changes of the MFC based sensor are calculated to be ~77 ppb and ~281 ppb for ethanol and methanol respectively which are over one order of magnitude improvement than many other reports. The sensors also show fast response times of less than 5 minutes and recovery times varied from 7 to 12 minutes. Simultaneous measurement of ethanol and methanol is achieved by utilizing two different coating recipes. Hollow core fiber (HCF) structure for high temperature and twist sensing.

A modified SMS structure with much improved spectral quality factor (Q) is investigated both theoretically and experimentally. The modified structure is based on a HCF. It is found that periodic transmission dips with high spectral extinction ratio and high Q factor are excited because of the multiple beam interferences introduced by the cladding of the HCF. The HCF structure can be used as a high sensitivity (up to 33.4 pm/°C) temperature sensor in a wide working temperature range (from room temperature to 1000 °C). By coating a thin layer of silver (~ 6.7 nm) on one side of the HCF surface, a twist sensor with a maximum sensitivity of 0.717 dB/°has been achieved, which is the highest twist sensitivity reported for intensity modulation based fiber sensors, with excellent measurement repeatability. Further theoretical and experimental investigation attributes this high twist sensitivity to the polarization dependent reflection coefficient at the outer HCF surface associated with the partial silver coating.