Thursday, November 7, 2013

FiberOptic.com on Fiber Optics and Railway Safety

FiberOptic.com believes Fiber optics are making railways safer by helping protect commuter and freight trains from accidents.  The specific method which helps transportation organizations accomplish this is when railways install fiber-optic sensors to help protect commuter and freight trains from accidents.  A press release this past September from The Optical Society explains that within just a few years these systems have taken over 10 million measurements in order to prove their effectiveness in detecting "excessive vibrations, mechanical defects or speed and temperature anomalies[1]."  These irregularities can sometimes lead to derailments or similar accidents, and the system is designed to alert train operators to these issues before an anomaly develops into something dangerous.  The sensors are either set into mechanical compartments of the train, or installed on the tracks.
            Hwa-ywa Tang of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University explained that within the seven year trial period, the fiber system detected at least 30 irregular vibrations and potentially prevented several train wrecks.  Because of the fiber-optic sensor system, the rail company is able to save roughly $250,000 each year in railway maintenance.  Tam went on to discuss how this system less than a third of other available systems, as those "typically require data to be integrated from a half dozen different types of monitoring systems.[2]
            Chris LaBonge, President of FiberOptic.com explains, "The introduction of fiber optics into this application or system has several other advantages.  Since the system facilitates optical detection and communication, the system has no issues with electromagnetic interference such as from power lines, which frequently run parallel to rail lines."  LaBonge goes further to explain how FiberOptic.com's field services parter company Adtell Integration has worked with organization like the Metropolitan Transit Authority or MTA  based in New York City on the installation and fiber characterization testing of fiber optic lines which parrellel most of their system.  He feels there may be potential for fiber optics within their opperations outside general networking or telecommunications applications which are currently deployed.  He sites one example as the use of passive fiber Bragg grating sensors to observe the state of a train route. 
            High-tech precautions such as this are vital to many international passengers as  the cars are capable of traveling over 300km per hour.  It's our understanding, this system is being set up in every commuter train route in Hong Kong, and in the near future Australia will begin setting up their own systems.


[1] The Optical Society, The Optical Society, printed 9.30.13, accessed 10.30.13, http://www.osa.org/en-us/about_osa/newsroom/newsreleases/2013/optical_sensors_improve_railway_safety/

[2] Ibid​.
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