Abstract

Phase-sensitive optical time-domain reflectometry (φOTDR) is widely used for the distributed detection of mechanical or environmental variations with resolutions of typically a few meters. The spatial resolution of these distributed sensors is related to the temporal width of the input probe pulses. However, the input pulse width cannot be arbitrarily reduced (to improve the resolution), since a minimum pulse energy is required to achieve a good level of signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), and the pulse peak power is limited by the advent of nonlinear effects. In this Letter, inspired by chirped pulse amplification concepts, we present a novel technique that allows us to increase the SNR by several orders of magnitude in φOTDR-based sensors while reaching spatial resolutions in the centimeter range. In particular, we report an SNR increase of 20 dB over the traditional architecture, which is able to detect strain events with a spatial resolution of 1.8 cm.

© 2017 Optical Society of America

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