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1. (WO2010073002) DISTRIBUTED OPTICAL FIBRE SENSOR
Note: Text based on automatic Optical Character Recognition processes. Please use the PDF version for legal matters

Claims:

1. A distributed optical fibre sensor comprising: a monomode sensor fibre for disposing in an environment such that the birefringence of the sensor fibre is responsive to at least one environmental influence; a light source arranged to launch pulses of probe light each having a defined launch polarisation state into the sensor fibre; a detector arranged to receive probe light following backscatter of said pulses within the sensor fibre, and to detect retardation beat frequency signals from the received probe light using one or more detector polarisation states; and an analyser arranged to determine at least one parameter indicative of said environmental influence, as a profile along at least part of the sensor fibre, from properties of the retardation beat frequency signals.

2. The distributed optical fibre sensor of claim 1 wherein the sensor fibre is a fibre constructed such that the birefringence of the sensor fibre changes in response to an environmental influence.

3. The distributed optical fibre sensor of claim 1 or 2 wherein the sensor fibre is a transversely asymmetric fibre constructed such that the birefringence of the sensor fibre changes in response to an isotropic environmental influence.

4. The distributed optical fibre sensor of any preceding claim wherein the sensor fibre has at least one of: an intrinsic typical beat length of greater than 1 metre; and a low birefringence.

5. The distributed optical fibre sensor of any preceding claim, wherein the sensor fibre is a side hole fibre.

6. The distributed optical fibre sensor of any of claims 1 to 5 wherein the at least one environmental influence comprises pressure.

7. The distributed optical fibre sensor of any preceding claim wherein the light source is arranged to automatically launch a plurality of said pulses of probe light having a diversity of two or more different launch polarisation states.

8. The distributed optical fibre sensor of claim 7 wherein the analyser is arranged to combine properties of the retardation beat frequency signals from each of said plurality of pulses in determining said one or more parameters.

9. The distributed optical fibre sensor of claim 7 or 8 wherein the launch polarisation states are linear states having corresponding polarisation directions.

10. The distributed optical fibre sensor of claim 8 wherein the diversity of launch polarisation states is such that the polarisation directions include first and second groups each of one or more directions, the directions in the first group being separated from the directions in the second group by between 20 and 70 degrees, and more preferably by between 40 and 50 degrees, and more preferably by substantially 45 degrees.

11. The distributed fibre optic sensor of claim 7 or 8 wherein the diversity of polarisation states comprises first and second polarisation states separated by an angle of substantially 45 degrees.

12. The distributed optical fibre sensor of claim 11 wherein the plurality of pulses comprises one or more pairs of sequential pulses launched with linear polarisation states in directions at 45 degrees to each other.

13. The distributed optical fibre optical sensor of any of claims 10 to 12 wherein the plurality of polarisation directions includes third and fourth groups of directions, the third group being substantially orthogonal to the first group, and the fourth group being substantially orthogonal to the second group.

14. The distributed optical fibre sensor of any of claims 6 to 13 wherein the plurality of launch polarisation states is selected to reduce the polarisation dependent loss of said pulses of probe light backscattered to the detector.

15. The distributed optical fibre sensor of any of claims 6 to 13 wherein the detector detects the retardation beat frequency signals by interposing one or more detector polarisation elements to filter the received probe light.

16. The distributed optical fibre sensor of claim 15 wherein, for said plurality of pulses, a particular different detector polarisation state is used for each different launch polarisation state.

17. The distributed optical fibre sensor of claim 15 wherein, for said plurality of pulses, each detector polarisation state is set to match the launch polarisation state of the pulse being detected.

18. The distributed optical fibre sensor of any preceding claim further comprising a polarisation controller adapted to automatically adjust the launch polarisation states and/or the detector polarisation states.

19. The distributed optical fibre sensor of claim 18 wherein the polarisation controller automatically adjusts the launch polarisation states and/or the detector polarisation states on the basis of properties of backscattered probe light received at the detector.

20. The distributed fibre optical sensor of any of claims 1 to 6 wherein the one or more launch polarisation states are linear polarisation states.

21. A method of mapping an environmental parameter along a sensor optical fibre, comprising: launching a series of probe light pulses into the sensor optical fibre;

detecting a retardation beat frequency signal in probe light backscattered from the sensor optical fibre; and mapping the parameter as a profile along the sensor fibre from the retardation beat frequency signals of the plurality of pulses

5

22. The method of claim 21 wherein the plurality of pulses comprises pulses having a diversity of launch polarisations states when launched into the sensor optical fibre.

o 23. The method of claim 22 wherein the diversity of launch polarisation states comprises first and second linear polarisation states having polarisation directions separated by between 40 and 50 degrees.

24. The method of claim 23 wherein the diversity of launch polarisation states 5 comprises third and fourth linear polarisation states substantially orthogonal to said first and second states respectively.

25. The method of any of claims 21 to 24 wherein the sensor optical fibre is a transversely asymmetric fibre of low intrinsic birefringence. 0

26. The method of any of claims 21 to 25 wherein the environmental parameter is pressure.

27. The method of claim 26 wherein the sensor optical fibre is a side hole fibre 5 having a birefringence responsive to local isotropic fluid pressure, such that the retardation beat frequency signal is indicative of said local isotropic fluid pressure.

28. A method of calibrating the sensor of any of claims 1 to 20, comprising: o coupling an analyser to the sensor optical fibre; using the analyser to determine birefringence properties of the sensor optical fibre; and calibrating the sensor using said determined birefringence properties.

29. The method of claim 28 wherein the analyser is a portable Stokes analyser.

30 The method of claim 28 or 29 wherein the determined birefringence properties includes circular birefringence properties in profile along the sensor optical fibre.

31. The method of any of claims 28 to 30 further comprising uncoupling the analyser before operating the calibrated sensor.