Abstract

This paper is a comprehensive experimental report on the neutron radiation effects of distributed optical fiber sensors with enhanced Rayleigh scattering profiles in an in-pile environment. Femtosecond laser direct writing was used to inscribe Type-II modifications in standard telecom fibers and radiation-hardened fibers with fluorine-doped cores. Rayleigh backscattering signals were enhanced for continuous 1.5 m. In-pile lead-out sensors tests were carried out at the MIT Research Reactor for two months, which was operated at a nominal power of 5.7 MW with fast neutron (>0.1 MeV) flux of 1.29 × 1014 n/cm2/s and an in-core temperature of up to 560 °C. Using the Optical Frequency Domain Reflectometry technique, the backscattering profiles of fiber sensors were interrogated with a 3-cm spatial resolution to monitor the temperature profile of the reactor. Results show that laser inscribed Type-II modifications in the form of nanogratings are highly stable against extreme temperature and ionizing radiation. Both standard telecom fibers and radiation-hardened fibers with laser-enhanced Rayleigh profiles can continuously perform distributed temperature measurements over the entire duration of the in-pile testing. Temperature coefficients of sensors and spectral shift quality were studied as functions of total radiation fluence. To the best of our knowledge, we present for the first time, the temperature profile of an operating nuclear reactor core with 3-cm spatial resolution, enabled by distributed fiber sensors with laser-enhanced Rayleigh scattering profiles. The high spatial resolution measurements can provide valuable data for the design and validation of digital twin and virtual reality of nuclear energy systems.

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