Optical fibre sensors are being investigated since many years as candidates of choice for supporting structural health monitoring (SHM) in aerospace applications. Fibre Bragg grating (FBG) sensors, more specifically, can provide for accurate strain measurements and therefore return useful data about the mechanical strain state of the structure to which they are attached. This functionality can serve the detection of damage in an aircraft structure. However, very few solutions for protecting and bonding optical fibres to a state-of-the-art aircraft composite material have been reported. Most proof-of-principle demonstrations using optical fibre sensors for aerospace SHM-related applications reported in literature indeed rely on unpackaged fibre sensors bonded to isotropic metallic surfaces in a mostly unspecified manner. Neither the operation of the sensor, nor the adhesive material and bonding procedure are tested for their endurance against a full set of standardized in-flight conditions. In this work we propose a specialty coated FBG sensor and its permanent installation on aerospace-grade composite materials, and we demonstrate the compatibility with aerospace in-flight conditions. To do so we thoroughly evaluate the quality of the operation of the FBG sensor by correlating the reflection spectra of the installed sensors before and after exposure to a full set of realistic in-flight conditions. We also evaluate the difference in strain measured by the FBG, since any damage in the adhesive bond line would lead to strain release. The applied test conditions are based on aerospace standards and include temperature cycling, pressure cycling, exposure to humidity and hydraulic fluid and fatigue loading. We show that both the bond line and the quality of the sensor signal were negligibly affected by the applied environmental and mechanical loads representing in-flight conditions and therefore conclude that it can be considered for SHM of aerospace-grade composite materials.
Original languageEnglish
Article number065008
Pages (from-to)065008-065020
Number of pages13
JournalSmart Materials and Structures
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019

    Research areas

  • aerospace, composite materials, fibre Bragg grating, optical fibre sensors, sensor qualification, structural health monitoring

ID: 45726226