Among all non-linear optical effects observed in single-mode optical fibres, stimulated Brillouin scattering (SBS) is of particular importance since it has numerous practical implications. SBS occurs when laser waves are scattered through the interaction of light with hypersonic acoustic waves in the medium. It manifests through the generation of a backscattered Stokes wave that carries most of the input optical power once a definite intensity level is reached within the fibre core. It limits the maximum optical power that can be transmitted through an optical fibre and therefore can cause a severe penality for fibre optics telecommunications. The backscattered Stokes wave is down shifted in frequency with respect to the incident lightwave frequency. This frequency shift – often called the Brillouin frequency shift – depends on the fibre parameters and on the wavelength of the incident light. It is directly proportional to the acoustic velocity and ranges from 12 to 13 GHz for silica fibres at a 1.3 µm wavelength. The Brillouin frequency shift is also very sensitive to environmental quantities changing the acoustic velocity such as temperature and strain. This feature makes SBS very interesting for temperature and strain monitoring in optical fibres and has been used in the design of fibre optics sensors. In the present work, a novel method to measure SBS characteristics in single-mode optical fibres has been developed. It is based on the so-called pump and probe technique using two counterpropagating optical waves within the test fibre. It basically presents the originality to require only one laser source and relies on an electro-optic modulator to generate the probe signal by microwave modulation of the pump light. The inherent high stability of the experimental set-up has made possible the characterisation of different fibres in terms of SBS parameters with a higher accuracy than the traditional two lasers set-up. The influence of dopant concentration in silica fibres on the SBS properties has been fully characterised. Furthermore it has been determined that the presence of core dopants decreases the acoustic velocity resulting in a smaller Brillouin frequency shift. The temperature and strain effects on the SBS characteristics have been extensively investigated. The problem of the evolution of the polarisation of the interacting lightwaves has been studied and a model clarified the so far unexplained behaviour in low birefringence fibres. A new measurement procedure has been defined to achieve polarisation-independent Brillouin gain determination. The second facet of the present thesis deals with the concept of distributed fibre optics sensors based on SBS. The determination of the Brillouin frequency shift gives access to the temperature or strain experienced by the fibre, while a modified OTDR technique provides the information on the position. Here again the use of a single laser source together with an electro-optic modulator brings several advantages. Besides the convenient flexibility in the generation of the probe signal, it makes possible to pulse the optical signals to localise the interaction within the test fibre. The overall temperature or strain distribution of the test fibre can be carried out by measuring the Brillouin frequency shift at any locations throughout the test fibre. A sensor has been experimentally achieved and its performances can be summarised as follow: spatial resolution less than 10 meters over more than 10 kilometres, with a resolution on the Brillouin frequency determination of 1 MHz, that corresponds to a ±1°C temperature resolution or to a 2x10-5 strain resolution. The dynamic range can be increased up to 30 kilometres to the detriment of the spatial resolution. The ultimate performances of the SBS distributed fibre optics sensors have been investigated in terms of spatial resolution and dynamic range. It turns out that these sensors are eventually dedicated to distributed measurements over several tens of kilometres with a spatial resolution limited to the meter range. Finally two practical applications of such sensors are described: the measurement of the strain distribution in installed fibre optics cables for telecommunications and the temperature monitoring of electrical energy distribution cables. On site measurements using a Brillouin sensor have been performed for the first time thanks to the high stability and reliability of the sensor.