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NASA Fiber Optic Sensing Technologies Dramatically Improve Structural Health Monitoring and Tank Gauging

Revolutionary FOSS technology offers a wealth of flexible options for a wide variety of applications

NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center is offering companies that provide sensing solutions for monitoring of structures and asset management of storage tanks a unique opportunity to expand their product line to include unprecedented capabilities.

Known as FOSS (for fiber optic sensing system), NASA’s patented, award-winning technology portfolio combines advanced sensors and innovative algorithms into a robust package that accurately and cost-effectively monitors a host of critical parameters in real time.

These capabilities have significant potential for structural health management and tank gauging applications.

Structural Health Monitoring

  • Position/Deformation: Two- and three-dimensional (2D and 3D) displacement, twist, and rotation
  • Stiffness: Bending, torsion, and vibration
  • Operational Loads: Bending moments, shear loads, and torques
  • Strength/Stress: Pressure/fatigue and breakage prediction
  • Magnetic Fields: Cracks or other flaws in safety-critical metal structures

Tank Gauging

In addition to monitoring the structure of a tank, FOSS is capable of sensing the tank’s inventory:

  • Amount: Content level and evaporation rate
  • Temperature: From cryogenic up to 300 degrees Celsius
  • Stratification: Oil vs. water, sediment vs. liquid, and thermal layers

Manufacturers and end-users of structural and tank sensing solutions can tap into the superior performance of NASA’s FOSS system by licensing either the entire portfolio or only the easy-to-integrate elements that complement their existing products. Many of the FOSS technologies can be applied to OFDR-based systems, WDM-based systems, or both. Detailed information is provided below.

OFDR: optical frequency domain reflectometry
WDM: wavelength division multiplexing

Contact the commercialization team to discuss licensing NASA’s FOSS technologies:
919-267-1200
DRC006024@FUENTEK.COM

FOSS is a powerful tool that opens up an entirely new realm of understanding when it comes to testing and validating innovations.”

ALLEN PARKER
NASA ENGINEER

BENEFITS

The FOSS portfolio offers a range of improvements, depending on which technologies are included.

Low Cost

Provides unparalleled capabilities at a drastically reduced cost, enabling broad usage across industries

Low Power

Ultra-efficient algorithms and high-speed processing platform allow for rapid processing of data, enabling real-time analysis

Fast and Efficient

Processes thousands of measurements using computationally fast algorithms

Adaptive and Accurate

Automatically increases resolution where/when needed across quarter-inch intervals, reducing processing time and data volume

Easy to Install

Provides a small, lightweight, flexible sensing platform that can be easily applied to or embedded in a structure

Robust and Reliable

Operates effectively in humid—or even liquid—environments and withstands cryogenic temperatures and mechanical vibrations

Potential Applications

FOSS’s comprehensive capabilities make it a potential solution to meet an enormous range of monitoring needs.

Structural Health and Integrity

  • Buildings and bridges
  • Ocean vessels and aerospace vehicles
  • Oil rigs, platforms, and pipelines
  • Natural gas, petrochemical, and cryogenic fuel storage tanks
  • Turbine blades

Tank Gauging

  • Cryogenic liquids (fluid management, layering, temperature)
  • Food products (e.g., milk, wine, drinking water)
  • Grain (temperature, moisture)
  • Oil and natural gas (stratification and acidification)

Active Control

  • Truck and automobile frames and suspension
  • Wind turbine blades
  • Aircraft
  • Other flexible structures
  • Robotics

Safety and Protection

  • Cargo load balancing
  • Flight testing
  • Refueling drones/UAVs in flight
  • Monitoring shifts in the earth’s crust

Non-Destructive Evaluation

  • Identifying and monitoring oil drilling sites
  • Detecting cracks in pipelines
  • Monitoring for damage due to impacts from debris

Medical Uses

  • Procedures involving endoscopes and catheters
  • Minimally invasive and robotic surgeries
  • Evaluation of anthropomorphic test figures

For Example…

As a single example of the value FOSS can provide, consider oil and gas drilling applications. The FOSS technology could be incorporated into specialized drill heads to sense drill direction as well as temperature and pressure.

  • Because FOSS accurately determines the drill shape, users can position the drill head exactly as needed.
  • Temperature and pressure indicate the health of the drill.

This type of strain and temperature monitoring could also be applied to sophisticated industrial bore scope usage in drilling and exploration.

FOSS can provide an unprecedented quantity of data, allowing engineers to better monitor and control complex systems and make their designs more efficient and safer.”

LANCE RICHARDS
NASA ENGINEER

Technology Details

NASA Armstrong’s FOSS technology revolutionizes fiber optic sensing by using its innovative algorithms to calculate a range of useful parameters—any and all of which can be monitored simultaneously and in real time.

FOSS also couples these cutting-edge algorithms with a high-speed, low-cost processing platform and interrogator to create a single, robust, stand-alone instrumentation system. The system distributes thousands of sensors in a vast network—much like the human body’s nervous system—that provides valuable information.

Licensees can select whichever FOSS algorithms and other technologies meet the needs of their customers. Or they can license the entire portfolio to offer a new line of FOSS-based products.

How it Works

  • Fiber Bragg grating (FBG) sensors are embedded in an optical fiber at intervals as small as 0.25 inches, which is then attached to or integrated into the structure.
  • An innovative, low-cost, temperature-tuned distributed feedback (DFB) laser with no moving parts interrogates the FBG sensors as they respond to changes in optical wavelength resulting from stress or pressure on the structure, sending the data to a processing system.
  • Unique algorithms correlate optical response to displacement data, calculating the shape and movement of the optical fiber (and, by extension, the structure) in real time, without affecting the structure’s intrinsic properties.
  • The system uses these data to calculate additional parameters, displaying parameters such as 2D and 3D shape/position, temperature, liquid level, stiffness, strength, pressure, stress, and operational loads.

Why It’s Better

  • FOSS monitors strain, stresses, structural instabilities, temperature distributions, and a plethora of other engineering measurements in real time with a single instrumentation system weighing less than 10 pounds.
  • FOSS can discern between liquid and gas states in a tank or other container, providing accurate measurements at 0.25-inch intervals.
  • Adaptive spatial resolution features enable faster signal processing and precision measurement only when and where it is needed, saving time and resources. As a result, FOSS lends itself well to long-term bandwidth-limited monitoring of structures that experience few variations but could be vulnerable as anomalies occur (e.g., a bridge stressed by strong wind gusts or an earthquake).

Inventor Allen Parker of NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center demonstrates the difference between FOSS and conventional strain gauges. The bulky white bundle contains 18 conventional strain gauges. The single yellow fiber optic cable contains hundreds of FOSS sensors. (NASA photo)

Awards

The FOSS portfolio has received more than a dozen awards including:

  • R&D 100 Award
  • Best of Sensors Expo • Gold Winner • Application Award
  • Tech Briefs Create the Future Award • Winner • Electronics Category
  • TechConnect Innovation Award

FOSS Portfolio Technologies

NASA is seeking companies interested in licensing FOSS patents and launching a commercial product. NASA is also interested in working with companies who have interest in select elements of the portfolio.

Elements of the FOSS system include the following (issued/pending U.S. patents):

Additional algorithms are also available to measure the following parameters:

  • Operational Load (ref. DRC-014-043)
  • Distributed Pressure (ref. DRC-016-064)
  • Magnetic Field Gradients (ref. DRC-016-045)
  • Acceleration and Shape of a Vibrating Structure (ref. DRC-015-037)
  • Structure Life Prediction (ref. DRC-010-044)

Most FOSS algorithms can be used with other fiber optic monitoring systems.

For More Information and to Discuss Licensing FOSS Technologies

Manufacturers can select whichever FOSS algorithms and other technologies meet the needs of their customers. Or they can license the entire portfolio to offer a new line of FOSS-based products. Contact us today to discuss which innovations meet your technical needs and business goals.

919-267-1200 or DRC006024@FUENTEK.COM

For information about other technology licensing opportunities, please visit:
NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center
Technology Transfer Office
https://technology-afrc.ndc.nasa.gov

This technology is owned by NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center.

Fuentek is assisting NASA with this technology transfer effort. (DR-0001)