The University of Southampton

OPTO6011 Optical Fibre Sensors

Module Overview

Optical fibre sensor technology is playing an increasing role in modern-day life with a range of applications emerging in areas spanning civil engineering, defence and the life sciences. This module focuses on a key area of ORC expertise that has developed in parallel with the other application specific areas of optical communications and fibre laser technologies. This module is compulsory for students on the MSc Optical Fibre Technologies. The module builds on the base-concepts of optical fibre technologies (OPTO6008 and OPTO6009) taught in Semester 1, and will teach the key concepts of distributed and point sensing systems. A substantial part of the module will focus on existing and emerging applications, and on the markets of optical fibre sensor technology. The skills and knowledge acquired during this module will be essential for students wishing to take a final project focusing specifically on optical fibre sensor technologies in Semester 3.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

The aim of the course is to provide in-depth description of the two main strands of optical fibre sensor technology together with their key application areas to provide students with a solid foundation and understanding of the field. Following an introduction and overview of the field of optical sensors, and the main sensing principles and parameters of interest, the key operating principles, and key properties of point and distributed sensing technologies will be taught. Being a strongly application focused field of optical fibre technology, several examples of applications will be presented, with specific reference to real-world examples, to give students a better overview and understanding of where optical fibre sensors currently are being used, and where the technology potentially could find application in the future.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Appreciate the physics behind, and key properties of, optical fibre sensors
  • Appreciate various types of optical fibre sensors and their individual properties
  • Have basic knowledge about components used in sensing systems
  • Appreciate methods of characterisation of optical fibre sensors and optical fibre sensor based systems
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Use a variety of information sources (lectures, web, journals) to understand & solve problems (in this case for optical fibre sensors)
  • Use feedback from problem classes to prepare for answering examination questions
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Understand how specific fibre parameters are applicable to optical sensing
  • Be able to assess the suitability of different types of optical fibre sensors for particular applications
  • Predict the operational properties and understand the limitations of optical fibre sensors based on the knowledge of their design parameters and materials used to form them
  • Understand the core concepts of optical fibre sensing applied to a specific field, and understand which parameters should be measured to fully analyse the nature of the object being tested


- Governing standards for sensing systems. - Optical sensing principles (temperature, strain, stress, pressure, refractive index, etc.). - Fibre types and materials for optical fibre sensing (silica based, polymer based, etc.). - Point sensors (Fibre Bragg gratings, long period gratings, and microfibres/nanowires). - Design, fabrication and characterisation of point sensors. - Distributed sensors (Brillouin scattering based, Raman scattering based, Rayleigh scattering based). - Design, fabrication and characterisation of distributed sensors. - Fibre gyroscopes. - Fibre based gas and chemical sensors. - Optical fibre sensors for extreme and harsh environments (high temperature and strain, shock, high radiation). - Principles and application of optical fibre sensors in medicine and life sciences. Principles and application of optical sensors in oil and gas exploration. - Principles and application of optical sensors in civil engineering, e.g. structural monitoring and aircraft navigation. - Emerging markets and economic outlook.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The course consists of 2 lectures per week plus a bi-weekly workshop/surgery. Printed lecture notes and self-study packs will be provided for parts of the course. - Learning activities include - Attending lectures, problems classes, laboratory demonstrations, and exam preparation.

Wider reading or practice62.5
Preparation for scheduled sessions13
Completion of assessment task15.5
Follow-up work13
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

José Miguel López-Higuera. Handbook of Optical Fibre Sensing Technology. 

Eric Udd and William B. Spillman Jr. Fiber Optic Sensors. 

An encyclopaedia of laser technology and fibre optics by a Southampton alumnus.



MethodPercentage contribution
Assignments and problem sheets 20%
Exam  (2.5 hours) 80%


MethodPercentage contribution
Exam 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules


To study this module, you will need to have studied the following module(s):

OPTO6008Optical Fibre Technology I
OPTO6009Optical Fibre Technology II
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