Advanced trends in nonlinear optics applied to distributed optical-fibre sensors

The distributed optical-fibre sensors based on the properties of Brillouin scattering is the central object of this thesis. In the past decade, optical fibres have gained a large interest as sensors: attractive solutions based on the non-linear stimulated Brillouin scattering have been proposed in the early 90s and the possibility to achieve long-range fully distributed strain measurements has been extensively demonstrated. The Brillouin interaction is responsible for the coupling between two optical waves and an acoustic wave when a resonance condition is fulfilled. Since the resonance condition is strain and temperaturedependent, by determining the resonance frequency we directly get a measure of temperature or strain. Local information about the acousto-optical resonance condition is typically obtained by using pulsed lightwaves and a classical time-of-flight technique (BOTDA technique). The main goal of this work has been the development of an innovative technique for the generation of optical signals, using a set of locked lasers – instead of the traditional techniques using external modulators. The utilisation of the injection-locking of semiconductor lasers is the key of the entire set-up and represents an entirely new and original approach, since it brings significant improvements in terms of SNR and costs. As long as intense pulses propagate along the fibre, the optical signals can be seriously degraded by several nonlinear interactions occurring inside the fibre; we show that the nonlinear effect exhibiting the lowest threshold power is the modulation instability (MI) process. From the study of the dynamic behaviour of MI we could observe the Fermi-Pasta-Ulam (FPU) recurrence over few periods in very comfortable conditions. One original application of Brillouin sensing has been the dosimetric measurement of ionising radiations in a nuclear environment. The measurement campaign has not only shown that distributed sensors based on Brillouin spectral analysis are radiation tolerant up to very high doses, but has also revealed the first observation – to our knowledge – of the negative compaction of silica in fibres. Distributed fibre sensors based on stimulated Brillouin scattering offer a unique capability for the analysis of optical signals and nonlinear phenomena in optical fibres. We present a generalised theoretical approach to the problem of localised sensing and report on the first distributed measurement – to our knowledge – of the parametric gain in a single-pump fibre-optics parametric amplifier (FOPA).

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