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Fiber-optic sensor applications in civil and geotechnical engineering


Different types of fiber-optic sensors based on glass or polymeric fibers are used to evaluate material behavior or to monitor the integrity and long-term stability of load-bearing structure components. Fiber-optic sensors have been established as a new and innovative measurement technology in very different fields, such as material science, civil engineering, light-weight structures, geotechnical areas as well as chemical and high-voltage substations. Very often, mechanical quantities such as deformation, strain or vibration are requested. However, measurement of chemical quantities in materials and structure components, such as pH value in steel reinforced concrete members also provides information about the integrity of concrete structures. A special fiber-optic chemical sensor for monitoring the alkaline state (pH value) of the cementitious matrix in steel-reinforced concrete structures with the purpose of early detection of corrosion-initiating factors is described. The paper presents the use of several fiber-optic sensor technologies in engineering. One example concerns the use of highly resolving concrete-embeddable fiber Fabry-Perot acoustic emission (AE) sensors for the assessment of the bearing behaviour of large concrete piles in existing foundations or during and after its installation. Another example concerns fiber Bragg grating (FBG) sensors attached to anchor steels (micro piles) to measure the strain distribution in loaded soil anchors. Polymer optical fibers (POF) can be — because of their high elasticity and high ultimate strain — well integrated into textiles to monitor their deformation behaviour. Such “intelligent” textiles are capable of monitoring displacement of soil or slopes, critical mechanical deformation in geotechnical structures (dikes, dams, and embankments) as well as in masonry structures during and after earthquakes.


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Correspondence to Wolfgang R. Habel.

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Habel, W.R., Krebber, K. Fiber-optic sensor applications in civil and geotechnical engineering. Photonic Sens 1, 268–280 (2011).

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  • Fiber-optic sensor
  • monitoring
  • earthquake damage assessment
  • steel-reinforced structures
  • pH sensor
  • geotextiles
  • distributed sensor