Incoherent optical frequency-domain reflectometry based on homodyne electro-optic downconversion for fiber-optic sensor interrogation
Fiber-optics sensors using interrogation based on incoherent optical frequency-domain reflectometry (I-OFDR) offer benefits such as the high stability of interference in the radio-frequency (RF) domain and the high SNR due to narrowband RF detection. One of the main impairments of the technique, however, is the necessity of high-frequency detectors and vector network analyzers (VNA) in systems requiring high resolution. In this paper, we report on two C-band implementations of an I-OFDR architecture based on homodyne electro-optic downconversion enabling detection without VNA and using only low-bandwidth, high-sensitivity receivers, therefore alleviating the requirements of conventional I-OFDR approaches. The systems are based on a pair of modulators that are synchronized to perform modulation and homodyne downconversion at a reference frequency of 25.5 kHz. In the first system, we attain centimeter resolution with a sensitivity down to −90 dB using the modulation frequency range comprised between 3.2 and 14.2 GHz. In the second, we measured, for the first time using this approach, Rayleigh backscattering traces in standard single mode fiber with resolution of 6 m and a sensitivity of −83 dB by use of the 10.1–30.1 MHz range. These results show the feasibility of these simple, homodyne downconversion I-OFDR systems as compact interrogators for distributed or quasi-distributed optical fiber sensors.