This study reports on signal recovery of optical fiber Bragg gratings embedded in a carbon fiber composite overwrapped pressure vessel's (COPV) structure which have become chirped due to microcracks. COPVs are commonly used for the storage of high pressure liquids and gases. They utilize a thin metal liner to seal in contents, with a composite overwrap to strengthen the vessel with minimal additional mass. A COPV was instrumented with an array of surface mounted and embedded fiber Bragg gratings (FBGs) for structural health monitoring (SHM) via strain sensing of the material. FBGs have been studied as strain sensors for the last couple decades. Many of the embedded FBGs reflected a multi-peak, chirped response which was not able to be interpreted well by the current monitoring algorithm. Literature and this study found that the chirping correlated with microcracks. As loading increases, so does the number of chirped FBGs and microcracks. This study uses optical frequency domain reflectometry (OFDR) to demultiplex the array of FBGs, and then sub- divide individual FBGs. When a FBG is sub-divided using OFDR, the gratings' strain along its length is recovered. The sub-divided chirped FBGs have strain gradients along their length from microcracks. Applying this to all chirped gratings, nearly the entirety of the embedded sensors' readings can be recovered into a series of single peak responses, which show very large local strains throughout the structure. This study reports on this success in recovering embedded FBGs signal, and the strain gradient from microcracks.
The increased use of composite overwrapped pressure vessels (COPVs) in space and commercial applications, and the explosive nature of pressure vessel ruptures, make it crucial to develop techniques for early condition based damage detection. The need for a robust health monitoring system for COPVs is a high priority since the mechanisms of stress rupture are not fully understood. Embedded Fiber Bragg Grating (FBG) sensors have been proposed as a potential solution that may be utilized to anticipate and potentially avoid catastrophic failures. The small size and light weight of optical fibers enable manufactures to integrate FBGs directly into composite structures for the purpose of structural health monitoring. A challenging aspect of embedding FBGs within composite structures is the risk of potentially impinging the optical fiber while the structure is under load, thus distorting the optical information to be transferred. As the COPV is pressurized, an embedded optical sensor is compressed between the expansion of the inner bottle, and the outer overwrap layer of composite. In this study, FBGs are installed on the outer surface of a COPV bottle as well as embedded underneath a composite overwrap layer for comparison of strain measurements. Experimental data is collected from optical fibers containing multiple FBGs during incremental pressurization cycles, ranging from 0 to 10,000 psi. The graphical representations of high density strain maps provide a more efficient process of monitoring structural integrity. Preliminary results capture the complex distribution of strain, while furthering the understanding of the failure mechanisms of COPVs.