"Fiber optics is not just Internet !"
«Fiber optics is not just Internet !»
Used since the 1970s and 1980s to transmit data between continents, and more recently for very high-speed Internet, FO can also contain sensors to measure material deformation and constraints. The fields are vast: aeronautics, space, civil, wind, F1... and of course racing boats.
Our fiber optic engineering (i.e FO) combined with EXOCET BLUE is now in high demand in technological innovation projects or sporting challenges.
Explanations with Yannis Troalen, manager of fiber optic instrumentation at Pixel sur Mer.
Why fiber optics ?
« The use of the FO in boating began in the America’s Cup campaigns in the early 2000s. Since 2013, some boats have been called "flying" thanks to new generation appendices, materials and construction methods adapted to the stronger efforts.
All of this is made possible with digital simulation tools, which make possible to refine designs, load cases and therefore structures.
In this context, we need to obtain information on the efforts made by the ships in real time. Our objectives are : safety, structural integrity and of course performance. »
What is the advantage of integrating fiber optic sensors into a metallic or composite structure? ?
« The pertinence and seriousness of the measurement! a single fiber, barely thicker than a strand of hair can contain more than a dozen sensors that measure the micro deformations of the material. We work with light in an exposed, humid and saline environment, so no more corrosion or signal loss problems.
The FO is integrated into the foils, rudders, masts and also the hulls etc. We often intervene at the end of the process, defining upstream with the designers and the shipyard, the best location to integrate it. We are practically not intrusive into conventional gauges. The values obtained during static and navigation tests are always very realistic with digital models »
How to interpret the measure ?
« Micro-deformations of the material are observed from the peaks of the light signal. This value is used raw or transformed to recover stresses, moments or forces after a calibration.
We can therefore obtain live event monitoring and link it to the ship’s navigation and attitude data. This information can be used, for example, to assign alarms to certain limit values or to affect an autopilot.
And we are going even further with this technology. A sufficient number of measuring points allows shapes to be reconstructed. Especially thanks to Pixel’s innovations, such as the EXOCET BLUE. Having deformation info on masts, battens, rudders etc... Really help us making progress in performance ! »
So there are always opportunities with this technology ?
« Yes other developments are in progress ! On Ultims, new generation Imocas or Inshore supports, it is really difficult to know how the efforts are endured by the appendages. The flight or semi-flight dynamics of these boats are complex and very random. So we need to go further and combine this with design tools. We are currently working with structural engineers to integrate retro-engineering solutions into the EXOCET BLUE, with the objective of recovering "live" efforts. More information in 2019 ! »
On this subject, an opinion on the last Transat ?
« This Route du Rhum showed that the sailors were operating the machines at limits that had never before been reached. The numerous damages show that it is necessary to have even more information about the events. And especially in races where it is clear that skippers push harder than in training.
On this point, I agree with Vincent Lauriot Prévost who, in a recent interview, proposed to instrument the platforms to extract relevant information. We are entering a new era where solo skippers are flying 15-ton boats around the world. There is no room for error in terms of safety. And this will obviously bring performance since we will "tickle" the limits with more confidence.»
Find out more about our expertise in Optical Fiber here