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Fibre Optic Extensometer for High Radiation and High Temperature Nuclear Applications

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4 Author(s)
Cheymol, G. ; Nucl. Energy Div., CEA, Gif-sur-Yvette, France ; Villard, J.F. ; Gusarov, A. ; Brichard, B.

In the framework of the Joint Instrumentation Laboratory (LCI), gathering resources from SCK-CEN (Belgium) and CEA (France), we are developing an optical sensor in order to accurately measure radiation-induced elongation of material placed in the core of a Material Testing Reactor (MTR). This extensometer displays common advantages of Fibre Optic (FO) sensors: high resolution, easy remote sensing and multiplexing, and also compact size which is of particular interest for in pile experiments with little room available. In addition, light weight reduces gamma heating hence limiting the thermal effect. In accordance with the specifications, the sensor has preferably two fixing points defining a gauge length of 10 to 15 mm. The diameter is less than 2 mm. Intense gamma and neutron irradiation as well as high temperatures are the most difficult environment conditions to withstand. Reactor radiation produces huge losses in common optical fibre. The losses can be limited by selecting the fibres, the wavelength range (800-1200 nm), and a measurement based on interferometry (largely insensitive to losses in the fibre thanks to the wavelength encoding of the useful signal). Heavy neutron-mainly-and gamma flux such as in MTR, also produce compaction of silica, resulting in a significant drift and preventing the use of commercial FO sensors in such environment. Knowing this issue we revised the basic scheme of Extrinsic Fabry Perot Interferometer (EFPI) in order to limit the effects of compaction. A first sensor prototype fixed on a stainless steel support is tested with the Smirnof test facility in the BR2 MTR in Mol (Belgium). The support is subject to a constant mechanical and thermal stress, and then his dimensions are not supposed to vary. This test shows a very low drift of the revisited EPFI design under high irradiation field in comparison with a commercial EFPI. This result has to be confirmed with second generation sensors with an increased robustness. The other diff- culty to face is high temperature. Fibre optics with metal coating allow safe operation under temperatures up to 400°C and even higher. But differential dilatation between silica and typical metallic material produces differential elongation in the range of 0.7 10-2 i.e 5000 με for an increase in temperature of 400°C. Such large elongation has to be considered carefully in the sensor design and its fixing on the sample. We are currently implementing metal-coated fibre and we are preparing the next in pile irradiation on the BR2 reactor scheduled for end of 2011. Other applications of the sensor can be considered.

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Nuclear Science, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:60 ,  Issue: 5 )