Mechanical Engineering Faculty Research

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An improved fiber-optic strain gauge is capable of measuring strains in the approximate range of 0 to 50 microstrains with a resolution of 0.1 microstrain. (To some extent, the resolution of the strain gauge can be tailored and may be extensible to 0.01 microstrain.) The total cost of the hardware components of this strain gauge is less than $100 at 2006 prices. In comparison with prior strain gauges capable of measurement of such low strains, this strain gauge is more accurate, more economical, and more robust, and it operates at a higher update rate. Strain gauges like this one are useful mainly for measuring small strains (including those associated with vibrations) in such structures as rocket test stands, buildings, oilrigs, bridges, and dams. The technology was inspired by the need to measure very small strains on structures supporting liquid oxygen tanks, as a way to measure accurately mass of liquid oxygen during rocket engine testing. This improved fiber-optic strain gauge was developed to overcome some of the deficiencies of both traditional foil strain gauges and prior fiber-optic strain gauges. Traditional foil strain gages do not have adequate signal-to-noise ratios at such small strains. Fiber-optic strain gauges have been shown to be potentially useful for measuring such small strains, but heretofore, the use of fiberoptic strain gauges has been inhibited, variously, by complexity, cost, or low update rate.

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NASA Tech Briefs





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