Fiber Bragg gratings (FBGs) emerged almost magically in 1978. Since then, they have developed from being primarily of academic interest, to being one of the most versatile photonic components for both telecommunications and sensing.
I was lucky enough to get introduced to photonics during the early years of discovery and experimentation with FBGs and ended up making FBG components for telecommunications. Jumping forward a few decades, I had moved away from telecommunications and had started to dabble with free space optical sensing. Then, during a chance meeting over a beer in Sydney, I was asked, rather naively, if it was possible to use optical fiber to monitor what goes on in the esophagus when we swallow. This set me off on an entirely new path and, pulling together some ideas from telecoms, and some basic mechanical engineering, my team ended up developing a range of sensors for monitoring pressure in the human digestive tract.
Being able to detect swallowing disorders quickly led to monitoring in other regions of the gut, like the colon and small bowel, and, together with colleagues from Flinders Medical Center, we provided some details of the inner workings of the human gastrointestinal tract. Thus, the fiber optic catheter was born. This device kept me busy for almost 10 years, during which time we worked closely with clinical research groups to write a whole new chapter on how the gut works.
The next ‘Eureka’ moment came when we had to develop a temperature independent version of our sensor, initially for monitoring pressure beneath bandages. The very simple design that resulted worked well for sub-bandage measurements but has also become a key technology that has moved to applications in aerospace, pipeline monitoring, and mining.
When I started working in optics, I never thought I'd end up monitoring what makes your stomach growl when hungry, how air flows across an airplane wing, or detecting pressure transients in water pipes.
During this talk I will explain how our basic transducers work and will then describe the applications they are now being applied to, demonstrating how the humble FBG has opened up the scope and reach of fiber-optic sensing.
AP483 Optics and Electronics Seminar Series 2019-20 (Sponsored by Ginzton Laboratory, SPRC, Applied Physics, Physics, and HEPL).
Prof. John Arkwright, Strategic Research Fellow in Biomedical Engineering, College of Science and Engineering, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia