Small fiber worksho¥leads to big exchange of ideas

Troutdale, OR--More than 20 papers were presented by the more than 40 participants at the first Pacific Northwest Fiberoptic Sensor Worksho¥ held May 3-4. The worksho¥attracted attendees from the UK, India, and Hong Kong, as well as from all over the USA.

Small fiber worksho¥leads to big exchange of ideas

Peter Fuhr

Troutdale, OR--More than 20 papers were presented by the more than 40 participants at the first Pacific Northwest Fiberoptic Sensor Worksho¥ held May 3-4. The worksho¥attracted attendees from the UK, India, and Hong Kong, as well as from all over the USA.

The technical content of the worksho¥was divided into fiberoptic smart structures and associated fiber sensors; chemical sensing, with emphasis on environmental monitoring; and issues associated with fiberoptic-sensor technology. The event also included a small exhibit.

Worksho¥organizer Eric Udd of Blue Road Research (Troutdale, OR) gave an overview of fiberoptic smart structures for aerospace and natural structures, which was followed by a review of fiberoptic civil structures by Peter Fuhr of the University of Vermont (Burlington, VT). William Morey, production manager of fiber grating sensors for 3M Specialty Optical Fibers (West Haven, CT) reviewed fiber Bragg gratings, with an emphasis on component fabrication and utilization. Of the new direction his grou¥is taking following the 3M acquisition of this technology from the United Technologies Research Center (East Hartford, CT), Morey said, "It is our goal to increase the production of these devices leading to lower-cost, highly reliable Bragg gratings suitable for use in fiberoptic sensors and telecommunication areas."

A series of application-based papers covered topics including a low-cost fiber-grating-based demodulator used to measure utility-pole strain at a multiple locations (from Eric Udd), embedded fiberoptic sensors for ultrasonic detection and generation to support nondestructive testing (from John Dorighi, Northwestern Univ., Evanston, IL), and single-mode fiberoptic strain sensors (from Dave Jenson, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT).

The session on physical fiberoptics included papers describing a fiber sensor to monitor neutron radiation (Richard Craig, Battelle Pacific Northwest Labs, Richland, WA), a fluid-viscosity and mass flow sensor (Wei-Chih Wang, Unversity of Washington, Seattle), and a pseudodepolarizer to support fiber interferometers (Wei Jin, University of Strathclyde, Strathclyde, England).

Nature of the market

In one of the more intriguing presentations, Gordon Mitchell of Future Focus Inc. (Woodinville, WA) discussed the nature of the true market for fiberoptic sensors, a topic more frequently the subject of hallway discussions at other conferences. Based on a study Mitchell conducted for the US Department of Commerce, prior fiber-sensor-market analyses have been excessively optimistic in forecasting of sensor installations. He believes that there will be more realistic forecasting when there is a better understanding of the potential markets, actual costs, and overall market trends for fiberoptic sensors. The good news is that we can expect further market penetration for the technology.

This unusual session included a panel discussion on factors limiting the introduction of fiberoptic sensors into the marketplace, including the need to train end users and the lack of a fiberoptic sensor infrastructure. The grou¥also agreed that there is a need for extensive demonstration programs before the technology will become accepted widely. Vince Martinelli of Corning Incorporated (Corning, NY) discussed current efforts to establish fiberoptic sensor standards, encouraging attendees to participate in forums that are beginning to address this area.

Audience response to this worksho¥was very positive, and the small size of the grou¥allowed for more interaction between participants. Many attendees expressed their disenchantment with the larger conferences. "If you`re not a member of some clique, it becomes very difficult to contact certain individuals," said one attendee.

Full papers from the joint SPIE and Blue Road Research sponsored worksho¥are contained in the Proceedings of the Pacific Northwest Fiberoptic Sensor Workshop, SPIE Volume 2574. A call for papers for the 1996 edition of the Pacific Northwest Fiberoptic Sensor Worksho¥(May 8-9, 1996) can be obtained from Blue Road Research, 2555 NE 205th Ave, Troutdale, OR 97060; FAX: (503) 667-7880; or e-mail: [email protected]

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