Berkeley Lab to Develop Fiber Optic Sensor Solutions

The California Energy Commission has awarded Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) with USD 3.5 million (approximately EUR 3.2 million) to develop fiber optics for monitoring offshore wind operations and underground natural gas storage.

USD 2 million (approximately EUR 1.8 million) have been allocated for the offshore wind project and USD 1.5 million (approximately EUR 1.4 million) for the natural gas project.

Researchers at the Berkeley Lab have already studied fiber optic cables as sensors for use in carbon sequestration, groundwater mapping, earthquake detection, and monitoring of Arctic permafrost thaw.

“A fiber cable has a glass core that allows you to send an optical signal down at the speed of light; when there is any vibration, strains, or stresses or changes in temperature of the material that is being monitored, that information will be carried in the light signal that is scattered back,” said Berkeley Lab scientist Yuxin Wu, who is leading both new projects.

The researches will study and develop solutions related to floating wind technology, which is the most suitable for installation off the coast of California. This includes cost-friendly solutions for operations and maintenance (O&M) on remote offshore installations, as well as monitoring the effect of hazards such as earthquakes or extreme weather conditions on operations.

“One of the most expensive components of a wind turbine is the gearbox; they also tend to be the part that’s most vulnerable to failure,” said Yuxin Wu. “Often before they fail they produce abnormal vibrations or excessive heat due to increased or irregular friction. We intend to use fiber optic cables to monitor the vibrational, strain, and temperature signal of the gearbox, in order to pinpoint where problems are happening.”

A 3D map of changes with a resolution at the millimeter scale can be created by wrapping fiber optic cables around the entire gearbox. This could help discover gearbox issues at an early stage before they lead to gearbox failure, according to Berkeley Lab.

The researches also plan to explore how fiber optic cables can be used to detect marine mammal activity.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) is a Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science lab managed by University of California.

Photo: BOEM/Illustration

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