The technology exists to generate energy from fossil fuels with greater efficiency and lower CO2 emissions than conventional power plants, but these systems operate at much higher temperatures and pressures, and have a greater risk for chemical corrosion. ECE’s Center for Photonics Technology (CPT), directed by Professor Anbo Wang, has received a $1.2 million grant from the Department of Energy (DOE) for a three-year project to develop sensors that can monitor the situation to prevent equipment failure.
These fiber optic sensors will not require any electrical power at their location and will be able to operate in temperatures over 800°C, Wang explains. “The sensing concept is based on a pair of acoustic generating/detecting devices integrated in an optical fiber.” The sensors will be able to gather information on temperature, strain, cracking, and corrosion. Monitoring the structural health of these systems will keep them running safely and smoothly.
“The technology also has the potential of multiplexing of a large number of integrated acoustic generator and detector pairs along a single fiber cable,” says Wang. This would allow for distributed structural health monitoring across a long structure.
This new technology can not only help make more efficient power plants feasible, but can also help improve the operations at existing plants, Wang notes.
Another technology, which CPT completed a few months ago, was the development of fiber sensors that are able to monitor real-time temperature in coal gasifiers. According to Wang, “coal gasifiers perhaps represent the best clean coal technology.” Fiber optics are doing their part in the quest for clean energy.