Montana Patent of the Month – June 2022

Fiber optic sensors are commonly used in sensing devices including for temperature, mechanical strain, pressure and more. Light is sent through the cable and the returning, backscattered light is analyzed to detect minute changes. These changes can be analyzed to determine temperature, strain and so on. Often, these systems require the removal of noise to achieve a truly accurate measurement. To do so, a system must be in place which can determine the difference between a “pure” signal and a “noisy” signal, so that the difference can be dutifully removed from the test.

Adelos, Inc., a fiber-optic sensor development company, has grown from a high-tech startup into a world-class technology and intellectual property company. Their focus and expertise is on the “systems of systems” fiber optic sensor engineering. 

In line with this expertise, the company has recently patented their noise management solution designed for use in optical Time Delay Interferometry (TDI). TDI is a process meant to suppress laser frequency noise (LFN) to an acceptable level. This is based on the use of interference waves and an understanding of the time delay associated with each wave.

In Adelos’ system, a laser emits light into a splitter which splits the signal into a reference and interrogation signal. The first is modulated by an acousto-optic modulator. THe interrogation signal is modulated by an electro-optic modulator. A portion of the modulated reference signal is then transmitted to an integrated and optimized mixer subsystem. The remaining reference signal travels to photo diodes and into an amplifier. 

The interrogation signal travels into a circulator, through a coupler, and out into the fiber under test. The signal is backscattered from the fiber and moves back through the circulator into an isolator and into the signal mixer subsystem.

Both the reference and interrogation signals are treated separately in the subsystem, where they are converted into radio signals. The data is transferred as needed and undergoes extensive analyses and transformations to smooth out the signal. The resultant signals offer RF time-domain reflectometry outputs representative of signals (e.g., acoustic pressure waves) which can then be used to cancel out noise and achieve more accurate measurements.

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