Optellios launched a US$3.9 million research and development program in partnership with the U.S. Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). This announcement follows an earlier notification by NIST that it has selected the company to participate in its Technology Innovation Program (TIP) to address the areas of Critical National Need. As part of the program, Optellios will undertake a major effort to develop a fiber-optic sensing technology for early detection and location of faults in nation's aging civil infrastructure systems, including water pipelines, dams and levees, bridges, roads and highways.
The project's primary focus will be on a technology for monitoring the status and integrity of water pipelines and similar, often inaccessible, structures using fiber-optic cables. The optical fiber would act as a continuous sensor, providing real-time data on the location and nature of acoustic disturbances or changes in vibration, temperature, and strain along a pipe over distances of tens of miles. Monitoring for thermal and acoustic anomalies along water pipelines will help detect and locate water leaks, while a combination of acoustic and strain sensing can detect structural changes associated with infrastructure aging.
The company's current technology, embodied in its FiberPatrol sensor systems, allows early detection of the third-party interference (TPI), which includes unauthorized excavations, a constant source of concern for in-ground utility operators and oil pipelines. This capability is expected to be enhanced by the technology developments expected from this new program.