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Lightweight Fiber Optics for Real-Time Strain Monitoring
September 9, 2011

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Researchers at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center have patented a lightweight, fiber optics interrogation algorithm that can be used for real-time wing shape sensing, temperature, and strain measurements. The virtually weightless fiber Bragg grating sensors, along with NASA's sophisticated algorithms, provide strain data that enable precise calculations of shape, stress, stiffness (bending and torsion), temperature, pressure, strength, and operational loads in real time. Unlike conventional strain gauges which are heavy, bulky, and spaced at distant intervals, NASA's fiber optic sensors are small, non-intrusive, easy to install, and provide high-resolution (0.5-inch) strain measurements that are much more precise than ever before. This critical, real-time monitoring capability detects changes during operation without affecting performance and without the need for structural modifications.


  • High spatial resolution: Enables thousands of sensors to be placed at half-inch intervals for more comprehensive imaging than previously possible
  • Small and lightweight: Uses virtually weightless sensors and hardware the size of a shoebox
  • Non-intrusive: Uses a monitoring fiber that does not affect performance
  • Easy to install: Installs more quickly than conventional strain gauges


  • Aerospace: Sensing shape and structural health monitoring
  • Medical: Monitoring medical robotics, catheters, MRI machines, and radioactive environments
  • Renewable wind energy: Monitoring wind turbine blade deformation
  • Civil structures: Designing and monitoring bridges, tunnels, buildings, and dams
  • Automotive: Monitoring frame stress for improved safety and performance
  • Transportation and Rail: Monitoring integrity of train and tracks
  • Marine: Monitoring oil tankers, navy vessels, competitive yachts, and submarine hulls
  • Oil and Gas: Detecting leaks, monitoring pipelines and down-hole drilling
  • Power: Monitoring nuclear power plant vibration and temperature
  • Seismology: Monitoring shifts in the earth's crust
  • Mining: Monitoring integrity of shafts
  • Military: Detecting chemical or biological agents


NASA has two patents issued (U.S. Patent Nos: 7,520,176→ and 7,715,994→ ) for this technology.

Commercial Opportunity

This technology is part of NASA's technology transfer program. The program seeks to stimulate broad commercial use/application of NASA-developed technologies. NASA is flexible in its agreements, and opportunities exist for licensing and joint development. Armstrong is interested in a partnership to commercialize this technology.

Contact Information

If you would like more information about this technology or about NASA's technology transfer program, please contact:

Technology Transfer Office
NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center
PO Box 273, M/S 1100
Edwards, CA 93523-0273
Phone: (661) 276-3368
E-mail: DFRC-TTO@mail.nasa.gov

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Page Last Updated: November 11th, 2014
Page Editor: NASA Administrator