A common instrument that uses the intensity of the backscattered Rayleigh light to determine the optical loss along the fibre is known as an Optical Time Domain Reflectometer (OTDR). Rayleigh backscatter light is also used for coarse event/disturbance sensing. Raman light is used by a Distributed Temperature Sensor (DTS) to measure temperature, achieving a temperature resolution of <0.01°C and ranges of 30km+. However the response time of distributed temperature sensors is typically a few seconds to several minutes. Distributed Brillouin based sensors have been used to measure strain and temperature and can achieve faster measurement times of 0.1 second to a few seconds with a resolution of around 10microstrain and 0.5°C. Silixa’s intelligent Distributed Acoustic Sensor uses a completely new optoelectronics architecture to accurately and rapidly measure this backscattered signal with a precision and speed that allows acoustic measurements. The iDAS is so sensitive that it allows digital recording of acoustic fields at every location along an optical fibre with a frequency of >100kHz . This breakthrough is technically many steps ahead of what has been achieved before.
iDAS collects the true acoustic signal
The importance of collecting the true acoustic signal – amplitude, frequency and phase – cannot be underestimated as this opens the door to a wide range of array processing techniques to be used to extract the maximum value from the data. For example, this capability uniquely allows the iDAS to determine the speed of sound in the material surrounding the sensing cable, enabling the iDAS to quantify, for example, the proportion of oil and water in a flowing pipe.
In addition, as all sensing points are phase-matched, the acoustic response along the fibre can be combined to enhance the detection sensitivity by two-orders of magnitude, which would enable to step beyond the performance of current point sensors and as well as, if desired, achieving highly directional information. These capabilities can be further enhanced by forming the sensing cable into an acoustic antenna whose sensitivity and frequency response can be adjusted dynamically.