3D Printing

Researchers 3D Print Thermochromic Optical Fibers for Temperature Sensing

A staff of researchers from Khalifa College in Abu Dhabi has developed a method of 3D printing rugged optical fibers that can be utilized as temperature sensors. The group has printed their findings within the Additive Manufacturing journal.

Utilizing polymer resins embedded with color-changing powders, the researchers have been capable of produce versatile and difficult optical fibers which are vastly extra strong than the standard (brittle) variety which are product of glass.

Extra Strong

Whereas industrial sensors constituted of glass fiber optics are commonplace, they’re susceptible to readout errors because of the harsh environments they’re usually positioned in.

“Optical fiber sensors can work in harsh environments as they’re resistant to electromagnetic interferences and have distant sensing capabilities,” mentioned Dr. Haider Butt, Affiliate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, on the college.

“They present excessive sensitivity however they do have sturdiness points and are susceptible to be affected by small mechanical disturbances. Polymer fiber-based sensors may very well be another answer due to their strong energy and effectivity. They’re additionally unaffected by ambient disturbances. Polymer-based fibers exhibit low sensitivity, however they’re comparatively correct and reusable.”

Industries utilizing such glass fiber optical temperature sensors embody farming, chemical engineering, medical diagnostics, energy era and oil & fuel pipelines, and so these industries stand to profit from strong new optical sensor choices.

Completely different printed fibers at totally different temperatures (Picture credit score: Khalifa College)

They are often operated in a large temperature vary, don’t require electrical cables and are proof against electrical and magnetic disturbances. Being product of skinny strands of glass does place sure limits on how these parts can be utilized nevertheless.

In addition to providing greater sturdiness than their glass counterparts, polymer-based fibers manufactured with 3D printing could be extremely tuned and customised for particular functions.

To attain multi-functionality, stimuli-responsive supplies could be added to the resin used to print the sensors. When exterior triggers work together with these supplies, they induce adjustments within the bodily or chemical properties of the sensor, which could be measured and quantified.


Within the case of the 3d printed optical fibers, the stimuli-responsive supplies are thermochromic powders which change coloration when the temperature adjustments.

“We examined the temperature-sensing capabilities by evaluating their coloration transformation with temperature in an open setting,” mentioned Dr. Butt.

“At room temperature, all the colours have been distinguishable, however at 32 C, all samples turned clear and have been indistinguishable. This impact was reversible as the colour got here again when the optical fibers have been cooled to room temperature once more. We did this a number of instances to make sure the repeatability and longevity of the thermochromic powders within the fibers.”

Typical glass optical fibers have a a lot greater working temperature vary than what has been demonstrated with the printed fibers thus far, however the staff is at the moment engaged on enhancing the temperature vary of the polymer fiber sensors to extend the variety of functions.

Along with being able to detecting temperature adjustments, it was noticed that there have been optical losses detected when the fibers have been bent at explicit angles. This demonstrated the power of pressure sensing within the fibers, which means that light-weight optical pressure gauges are one other potential software for the expertise.

You possibly can learn the total paper, titled “3D printed polymer composite optical fiber for sensing functions“, within the Additive Manufacturing journal, over at this hyperlink.

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