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  • Report: Fiber Optic Sensor Benefits Evident
Aug 2003
PALO ALTO, Calif., August 18 -- Fiber optic sensors offer advantages over traditional sensing systems, such as small size and longer lifetime, according to an analysis by Technical Insights (TI), a unit of the Frost & Sullivan marketing analysis firm. Immunity to electromagnetic interference, amenability to multiplexing and high sensitivity make fiber optics the sensor technology of choice in several fields, including health care and aerospace, TI said.

"Optical sensors are not only replacing conventional sensors in many areas in science, engineering and medicine, but researchers are also creating new kinds of sensors that have unique properties," said TI analyst Joe Constance. "These properties relate to the ability of the sensors to measure physical, chemical and biological phenomena."

Optical systems require physically smaller media for representing information than is required by magnetic or electronic systems, TI said, and this gives them an edge over conventional devices. The greater bandwidth of optics enables delivery of more data, which is useful for high-speed data transmission or high-resolution video transmission.

Electromagnetic interference can corrupt data transmitted from a conventional thermocouple, according to the anaylsis. Fiber optic sensors, on the other hand, show greater resistance than thermocouples to hostile environments and electromagnetic interference. These characteristics make them an ideal choice as temperature sensors in many applications, according to the report. Scientists have been working on a fiber optic sensor that measures temperature using a reflector and which can be used in industrial power plants, nuclear plant, aircrafts and ships.

"Researchers are intent on further improving the bond between the fiber and the reflector, as well as reducing the required electronics for data acquisition and analysis," said Constance.

Recent advances in fiber optics and the numerous advantages of light over electronic systems have boosted the utility and demand for optical sensors in an variety of industries, including environmental and atmospheric monitoring, earth and space sciences, industrial chemical processing and biotechnology, law enforcement, digital imaging, scanning and printing, TI said.

According to its report, the ubiquity of photonic technologies could drive down prices as they have done in the telecommunications market, which reduced the cost of optical fibers and lasers.

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