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Specialty optical fibers for advanced sensing applications

Peer-Reviewed Publication

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image: Representative optical fiber sensors for wearable health monitoring. view more 

Credit: OEA

A new publication from Opto-Electronic Science; DOI  10.29026/oes.2023.220025 considers specialty optical fibers for advanced sensing applications.


Optical fiber technology has changed the world in enabling extraordinary growth in world-wide communications and sensing. Optical fiber sensors offer favorable advantages such as immunity to electromagnetic interference, lightweight, small size, high sensitivity, large bandwidth, reliable and robust performance, ability to withstand harsh environment, and ease in implementing multiplexed or distributed sensors. To date, optical fiber sensors have been widely used and explored for civil engineering, environmental monitoring, agricultural engineering, biomedical engineering, etc. Notably, the research on specialty optical fibers is playing a critical role in enabling and proliferating the optical fiber sensing applications. Special fiber sensing technology includes various types of fiber, such as single-mode fiber, multi-mode fiber, multi-core fiber, fiber grating, microstructure fiber, etc. Compared with traditional optical fiber sensors, sensor performance such as sensitivity could be significantly improved by utilizing specialty fiber-based sensors.


A review article named "Specialty Optical Fibers for Advanced Sensing Applications" was published in Opto-Electronic science by Professor Perry Ping Shum’s research team in the Optoelectronics Intellisense Lab of Southern University of Science and Technology Issue 2, 2023. The paper overviews recent developments in specialty optical fibers and their sensing applications. The specialty optical fibers are reviewed based on their innovations in special structures, special materials, and technology to realize lab in/on a fiber. An overview of sensing applications in various fields is presented. The prospects and emerging research areas of specialty optical fibers are also discussed.


New specialty optical fibers with engineered materials or specially designed structures offer new opportunities to explore novel functions and applications. Different physical parameters, for example, refractive index, temperature, strain, and magnetic, can modulate or perturb the guided light in a specialty optical fiber by means of elastic or thermo-optical effects. Specific applications using special optical fibers as sensors to measure refractive index, temperature, and strain are summarized in this paper.


Wearable sensing technologies have benefitted from the development of specialty optical fibers, ranging from fiber microstructure-based sensors, fiber interferometer-based sensors, polymer optical fiber (POF) sensors and micro/nano fiber (MNF) sensors. Optical fiber shape sensors based on special fibers and fibers with advanced structures have achieved performance enhancement and attracted growing interest in developing applications in medical treatment, soft robots, and structural behavior monitoring. Besides point sensing applications, distributed fiber sensors have been widely used for industrial applications, such as monitoring of gas pipelines, underwater security, loaded beam structure, earth phenomena, power transformer and downhole environments. Specialty fibers are also widely used in biosensor instrumentation for life sciences related clinical, and research applications.


The research team of Professor Perry Ping Shum from Southern University of Science and Technology reviewed the technology of special optical fibers and their sensing applications in various fields. As a technology enabler to realize lab in/on fiber, fs-laser induced two-photon polymerization is expected to gain wider application perspectives, with finer structures and more diverse functionalities. In addition, there is expected to be significant potential for the growth of multimaterial fibers. More studies are desired to understand further the underlying science, material processing, structure engineering, and system integration. Here are a few exciting directions that can be investigated in the future:

  1. Fabrication of semiconductor fibers with other cross-section geometries.
  2. Optoelectronic fibers with interdigital electrodes by the capillary breakup.
  3. Fabrication of graphene nanoribbons via cold drawing method and achieve a low-cost, simple, and fast method for producing monolayer graphene nanoribbons.


Keywords: specialty optical fibers / photonic crystal fiber / multifunctional / multi-material fibers / lab in/on fiber


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Guangdong Key Laboratory of Integrated Optoelectronics Intellisense is located in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, aiming to build a world-class platform for optoelectronic intellisense technology innovation, and promote the technological innovation and high-quality and rapid development of industries in related fields in China and Guangdong Province. The laboratory director is Professor Perry Ping Shum of Southern University of Science and Technology. The key lab will follow the urgent needs of national strategy "Digital China" and the development of information industry, relying on Southern University of Science and Technology and key disciplines of Electronic Science and Technology. The key lab launches the research based on the existing academic platform, construction with "optoelectronics intellisense" + "communication network", featuring integration of academic research and talent training base. It carries out a full-chain research pattern of "Key materials – Core sensors- Intellisense equipment - System network", connecting the environment from the physical layer to the application layer, to help build a ubiquitous intelligent infrastructure system. The main research directions cover the following four aspects: Integrated optoelectronic functional materials and devices, high-performance integrated optoelectronics sensors, optoelectronics intellisense equipment and systems, and communication sensing integrated network.


Perry Ping Shum, chair professor of the Department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering, Southern University of Science and Technology, Director of Guangdong Key Laboratory of Integrated Optoelectronics Intellisensenational distinguished expert, IEEE Fellow, Chinese Optical Society Fellow, SPIE Fellow, OSA Fellow, Chairman of IEEE Photonics Society Guangdong Branch, Vice Chairman of the Optical Communication and Information Network Professional Committee of the Chinese Society of Optical Engineering. He has published nearly a thousand academic papers with more than 19,000 citations, and a H-index of 66. In recent years, as the person in charge, he has been granted research funds of more than RMB 50 million. He served as Director of the NTRC, OPTIMUS, and COFT, and Dean in charge of education in Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. During this period, NTU-COFT, a world-class fiber research/processing center, was created, which enabling Singapore to have the ability to manufacture special fiber optics, special fiber lasers and sensors for the first time. He chaired several major international conferences, including CLEO-PR | OECC| PGC 2017; and initiator of international conferences such as ICICS, PGC, ICOCN, ICAIT, OGC, etc. He has created the special project “Enabled learning: Escape Room Design”, which has been reported by Channel News Asia, Channel U, Channel 8, Channel 5, Zaobao, in four different languages. His doctoral students/postdoctoral students trained have awarded the National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars, the National Specially Appointed Young Expert, the National Natural Science Foundation of China Youth Fund. Two high-tech enterprises in the field of optoelectronics were established or supported by his team (1 of which has been listed). His team also cooperate closely with universities and institutes worldwide.

Huanhuan Liu, Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, Southern University of Science and Technology

Dora Juan Juan Hu, Institute for Infocomm Research (I2R), Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore; School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

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Opto-Electronic Science (OES) is a peer-reviewed, open access, interdisciplinary and international journal published by The Institute of Optics and Electronics, Chinese Academy of Sciences as a sister journal of Opto-Electronic Advances (OEA, IF=9.682). OES is dedicated to providing a professional platform to promote academic exchange and accelerate innovation. OES publishes articles, reviews, and letters of the fundamental breakthroughs in basic science of optics and optoelectronics.

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Liu HH, Hu DJJ, Sun QZ, Wei L, Li KW et al. Specialty optical fibers for advanced sensing applications. Opto-Electron Sci 2, 220025 (2023). doi: 10.29026/oes.2023.220025 


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