Polymer optical fibre in textiles for smart sensing applications – smart textile materials

Supervised by Drs Patricia Scully (School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science) with Prof Krikor Ozanyan (School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering)

This project will develop sensitised optical coatings, to be used as claddings on polymer optical fibres (POF), to form intrinsically safe sensing elements that can be woven or embedded as a network within flexible textiles. The optical coatings can be sensitised to a variety of biological, chemical or physical measurands1. This will enable applications as a smart textile to be incorporated within clothing to monitor vital signs and physiological parameters. For example: sweating, heartbeat, respiration; or to form a flexible sensing skin on a curved surface such as an aircraft structure.

Guided paths from the sensitized polymer optical fibres (POF), provide path integrals proportional to the fibre losses. Combining the optical signals formed by these path integrals with Guided-Path Tomography (GPT) enables an image to be formed of the 2-D spatial distribution of measurands on non-planar surfaces.2,3 The technique enables large areas to be imaged with embedded and dispensable sensors on curved or fluctuating surfaces.

Polymer optical fibre is chosen because it is rugged and flexible compared with glass fibre, 10 times more sensitive to evanescent field than glass fibre, and will not shatter into skin piercing shards if roughly handled, sewn or woven. POF is clinically inert, cheap enough to be used for throw away sensors, available in a range of diameters and can unobtrusively embedded or woven into clothing, enabling on-line, continuous logging for medical, health and fitness monitoring. This will enable them to be combined with new technology in the form of wireless communications, and ever reducing and discrete electronic devices coupled with increasing computational power within small footprints, to form smart clothing in which sensors are woven into fabric, enabling the wearer to perform their daily routine unhampered by trailing wires and leads.

The sensitised coatings and fibre technology will be supervised by Drs Scully and Vaughan (CEAS), with the GPT and communications in collaboration with Dr Ozanyan (EEE).

1. John Vaughan, Christopher Woodyatt, and Patricia J Scully, “Polymer optical fibre sensor to monitor skin moisture”. Proc. SPIE, Vol. 6619, 66191T (2007); Third European Workshop on Optical Fibre Sensors, Napoli, Italy.

2. K B Ozanyan, S Garcia Castillo and F J Parra Ortiz, “Guided-path tomography sensors for non-planar mapping”, IEEE Sensors J. 5, 167-17 (2005).

3. S Joshua, Y M Keung, P J Scully, and K Ozanyan, “Photonic Guided-Path Tomography for Imaging Pressure Distribution Using Polymer Optical Fibre Strain Sensors,” in Optical Fiber Sensors, OSA Technical Digest (CD) (Optical Society of America, 2006), paper ThE44.



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