Scientists are increasingly turning to distributed sensing, a new way of gathering data that can help them better understand how environmental conditions affect plants and animals.
Here are four ways they’re using distributed sensing to better understand the world around them.
What Is Distributed Sensing?
This write-up would be incomplete without the definition of distributed sensing. Distributed sensing is an optical fiber-based sensing technology that was initially introduced over fifty years ago. This method gained popularity over the years as technology improved. They are also cost-effective and lightweight, making them easy to install.
According to Silixa (https://silixa.com/resources/what-is-distributed-sensing/), this technology allows scientists to gather continuous real-time measurements along the length of a fiber optic cable. Unlike the conventional method, distributed sensing does not depend on manufactured sensors. Instead, it utilizes optical fibers, making it deployable in the harshest of environments.
How it Works
A compact and robust fiber optic cable is deployed in distributed sensing in various environmental conditions. The cables are either burred, strapped, or installed aerially. Aperture designs and solidly embedded fiber cables send a series of pulses into the fibers. They consequently record the return of scattered signals against time. It should be noted that the scattered signals are naturally occurring.
Applications of Distributed Sensing
Distributed sensing is applied for diverse situations, including:
- Acoustic Sensing
Scientists use distributed acoustic sensing to detect and gather acoustic signals over large distances in harsh and unusual environments. In distributed acoustic sensing, light pulses are sent down fiber optic cables. They bounce back to the sensors. Whenever there are notable sounds or acoustic events, vibrations occur.
The vibrations distribute the return signal on the fiber optic cable. Scientists analyze the collected acoustic signals, also known as backscatter to collect information. They use distributed acoustic sensing to listen to roaming cattle and movements in the ground that could influence plants and animals. They also use this technology to monitor weather events like storms, lightning, and winds, especially in remote locations.
- Temperature Sensing
Scientists also use distributed temperature sensing to understand the world. Distributed temperature sensing uses optoelectronic technology to monitor thermal change in the environment. Like other forms of distributed sensing, optic cables are applied instead of conventional linear sensors. In DTS, temperatures are recorded along with the optical fiber cables.
Temperature sensing allows scientists to collect accurate temperatures over great distances. It also allows them to monitor temperature levels at intervals (usually a few feet) along the entire length of the optic fiber cable system.
This technology is commonly applied in environmental and earth sciences. For instance, the technology is used for riverine, groundwater, and soil moisture analysis or investigation. The environmental applications of distributed temperature sensing keep increasing as time goes by and scientists explore the technology’s capabilities.
- Strain Sensing
Distributed strain sensing consists of virtual strain gauges equally distributed along a fiber optic cable. This technology allows scientists to measure strain at ranges of up to 65 kilometers or more. DSS is mostly applied in industrial sectors. For instance, pipeline operators commonly use distributed strain sensing to enhance safety and efficiency in their systems. The technology is also commonly used to prevent and detect pipeline leaks. This can help conserve the environment and prevent adverse impacts on animal and plant life. DSS is also used for fire detection for cables, especially in industrial settings.
- Power Cabling Monitoring
One of the oldest distributed sensing applications is in the power and utility sector. The technology has been applied since 1980 in the evaluation and monitoring of power cable conditions. This is achieved through a combination of temperature and acoustic sensing. This technology helps scientists detect cabling systems’ issues and prevent fires and risky situations. It is primarily beneficial with buried, subsea, and tunneled power cables. However, the technology is also applied for overhead power cables. Understanding and monitoring the cabling systems can help protect the environment.
- Industrial Applications
In addition to the environmental applications, distributed sensing is also used in industrial and manufacturing settings. This is because it provides uptime and reliable results. It also allows continuous monitoring and provides room for critical analysis, especially in highly sensitive industries.
What is Distributed Sensing Wrap Up
Distributed sensing is a highly advanced technology used to monitor, detect and prevent potential environmental, industrial, and potential manufacturing issues. This technology comes in handy in sensing temperature, strain in cables, and acoustics.