Abstract

Appearance of micrometer size surface cracks is common in structural elements such as welded connections, beams, and gusset plates in bridges. Brillouin scattering-based sensors are capable of making distributed strain measurements. Pre-pump-pulse Brillouin optical time domain analysis (PPP-BOTDA) provides a centimeter-level spatial resolution, which facilitates detection and monitoring of the cracks. In the work described here, in addition to the shift in Brillouin frequency (distributed strains), change in the Brillouin gain spectrum (BGS) width is investigated for the detection and monitoring of surface micro-cracks. A theoretical analysis was undertaken in order to verify the rationality of the proposed method. The theoretical approach involved simulation of strain within a segment of the optical fiber traversing a crack and use of the simulated strain distribution in the opto-mechanical relations in order to numerically obtain the change in the BGS. Simulations revealed that the increase in crack opening displacements is associated with increase in BGS width and decrease in its peak power. Experimental results also indicated that the increases in crack opening displacements are accompanied with increases in BGS widths. However, it will be difficult to use the decrease in BGS power peak as another indicator due to practical difficulties in establishing generalized power amplitude in all the experiments. The study indicated that, in combination with the shift in Brillouin frequency, the increase in BGS width will provide a strong tool for detection and monitoring of surface micro-crack growths.

© 2015 Optical Society of America

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