It is presented an optical fiber sensing system projected to operate in the demanding conditions associated with coal waste piles in combustion. Distributed temperature measurement and spot gas sensing are requirements for such a system. A field prototype has been installed and is continuously gathering data, which will input a geological model of the coal waste piles in combustion aiming to understand their dynamics and evolution. Results are presented on distributed temperature and ammonia measurement, being noticed any significant methane emission in the short time period considered. Carbon dioxide is also a targeted gas for measurement, with validated results available soon. The assessment of this technology as an effective and reliable tool to address the problem of monitoring coal waste piles in combustion opens the possibility of its widespread application in view of the worldwide presence of coal related fires.
An experimental setup has been developed for different gas species sensing based on the Wavelength Modulation Spectroscopy (WMS) principle. The target is the measurement of ammonia, carbon dioxide and methane concentrations. The WMS is a rather sensitive technique for detecting atomic/molecular species presenting the advantage that it can be used in the near-infrared region using optical telecommunications technology. In this technique, the laser wavelength and intensity are modulated applying a sine wave signal through the injection current, which allows the shift of the detection bandwidth to higher frequencies where laser intensity noise is reduced. The wavelength modulated laser light is tuned to the absorption line of the target gas and the absorption information can be retrieved by means of synchronous detection using a lock-in amplifier, where the amplitude of the second harmonic of the laser modulation frequency is proportional to the gas concentration. The amplitude of the second harmonic is normalised by the average laser intensity and detector gain through a LabVIEW® application, where the main advantage of normalising is that the effects of laser output power fluctuations and any variations in laser transmission, or optical-electrical detector gain are eliminated. Two types of sensing heads based on free space light propagation with different optical path length were used, permitting redundancy operation and technology validation.
The combustion of coal wastes resulting from mining is of particular environmental concern and therefore the importance of the proper management involving real-time assessment of their status and identification of probable evolution scenarios is recognized. Continuous monitoring of combustion temperature and emission levels of certain gases opens the possibility to plan corrective actions to minimize their negative impact in the surroundings. Optical fiber technology is well-suited to this purpose and in this work it is described the main attributes of a fiber optic sensing system projected to gather data on distributed temperature and gas emission in these harsh environments.