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Final sensor system to be embedded during tank manufacturing: polyimide OF integrated in a PPS-glass tape

Composite materials, in general, are manufactured in form of filaments, tapes or sheets, while optical fibre sensors are to be embedded within the structure, depending on the structural layers that have to be monitored. Improper embedding of the sensors may be a source of delaminating that causes a significant decrease of mechanical properties. Sensor can also be installed on the surface of the structure, and in this case the optical fibre has to be protected against environmental influences. On the other hand, if the sensor is designed to monitor strain or deformation, it is necessary to guarantee a good bonding between the optical fibre and the composite. Finally, for an industrial deployment of fibre optic sensors in this domain, it is necessary to package the sensors in a way that makes them as easy to handle as other components used for composite production.

The solution in found in pre-packaging the measurement optical fibre in a thin composite tape, that can than be embedded or surface mounted on the composite structure. The tape gives to the optical fibre necessary protection against an accidental damaging during handling and installation. The fibre-reinforced composite tape with integrated optical fibre is called SMARTape. The SMARTape sensing performance was laboratory tested. In addition mechanical, microscopic and fatigue tests were performed. The results confirmed the same sensing performance as in case of standard SOFO sensor and excellent mechanical (robust, resistant, elastic, with no fatigue), thermal (temperature range from -40°C to +300°C) and chemical performance (resistant to aggressive environments).

Sensing solutions based on the SMARTape concept are now commercially offered by SMARTEC. In particular SMARTape sensors compatible with the SOFO and DiTeSt systems have been developed, introduced and have found the first applications outside the ZEM project.

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