In-line optical fiber interferometric refractive index sensors
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With many unique advantages compared to traditional sensors, optical fiber sensors have been studied and applied to many different areas. Interferometric sensors are one of the most useful sensor types due to their high sensitivities and relatively relaxed requirement on the stability of the optical source’s power level. In-line optical interferometric sensors received further attention as a result of compactness and robustness to the reference channel instability. Long period gratings (LPG) are one of the most useful components in the in-line optical fiber sensors. However, the fabrication cost is normally high due to the expensive masks and stringent photolithographic procedures. Two new sensor components, namely abrupt tapers and connector-offset attenuators, are proposed as couplers in the optical fiber to couple light from core to cladding (or reverse) to replace LPGs. Using OPTIBPM software, the coupling coefficients between core and cladding modes are calculated. For an abrupt taper, coupling mostly happens between LP01 and LP0m modes; the first ten LP0m modes account for 98% of the incident mode energy. For a connector-offset attenuator, coupling mainly happens between LP01 and LP1m modes; the first ten LP0m and first ten LP1m modes account for 92% of the incident mode energy. The relative direction of two connector-offset attenuators is found to be very important to the interference performance. Phase dependent interference (attenuation range from 1 dB to 35 dB) is observed in the simulation for the interferometers using abrupt tapers and connector-offset attenuators. Three interferometers are realized in the experiment using the abrupt tapers (Mach-Zehnder and Michelson) or the connector-offset attenuators (Michelson). Due to the interference between core and cladding modes, transmission is strongly dependent on wavelength ranging from 3 dB to 26 dB in the best implementation. Although it is difficult to make two perfect parallel connector-offset attenuators required by the Mach-Zehnder interferometers by using the fusion splicer, some evidence of constructive interference is observed in the experiment. The interferometers are tested as refractive index (RI) sensors using the maximum attenuation wavelength shift relative to the RI change. Given that the minimum resolution of optical spectrum analyzer is 10 pm, ~10-4 difference of the RI can be detected by the interferometric sensors using the abrupt tapers or the connector-offset attenuators.