Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Doctor of Philosophy in Electrical and Computer Engineering


Electrical and Computer Engineering

Major Advisor

Harish Subbaraman, Ph.D.

Major Advisor

Nirmala Kandadai, Ph.D.


Maria Mitkova, Ph.D.


Austin D. Fleming, Ph.D.


In this dissertation, the effects of radiation (gamma, neutron or mixed gamma and neutron) on optical fiber sensors are studied and new techniques for real-time measurement of radiation-induced macroscopic changes in optical fibers are presented. It is crucial among the research and development efforts in the nuclear energy field to conduct experiments in Advanced Test Reactor (ATR) to support lifetime extension, novel fuels and materials development, better fuel management, and enhanced safety of existing as well as future nuclear power plants (NPP). Due to their unparalleled and unique advantages over traditional sensors, optical fiber sensors are deemed potential candidates for their use in nuclear environments. However, optical fibers are susceptible to high levels of ionizing radiation emitted by fission reactors which are characterized by the highest levels of gamma dose, high flux of neutrons and potentially high temperatures depending on location in a reactor core. It is essential to accurately determine the information related to physical parameters such as temperature, pressure, and strain in nuclear environments for the safety of the existing and future NPPs.

This dissertation starts with inverting a transmission mode long period grating (LPG) to reflection mode using a novel and cost-effective metal coating method since transmission mode LPG limits it applications in tight spaces or in nuclear fields. To understand the metal coating and metal coverage effects on the reflection spectrum of LPG, modeling work was performed, and it was validated by experimental work. We have shown that the sensitivity of LPGs to physical parameters in both transmission and reflection modes are almost the same.

Next, we have modeled the radiation effects on different fiber optic sensors, proposed empirical models, and performed numerical analysis to understand the effects of nuclear environments on fiber optic sensors. We analyzed the real-time data from fiber Bragg gratings (FBGs) exposed to high neutron fluence and high temperature environments within the ATR at Idaho National Laboratory (INL). We have found that incoming radiation significantly drifts the characteristic signal of FBGs, leading to a temperature measurement error when FBGs are dedicated to temperature sensing. It is well known that neutron and gamma irradiation compacts silica optical fibers, resulting in a macroscopic change in the refractive index (RI) and geometric structure. The change in RI and linear compaction in a radiation environment is caused by three well-known mechanisms: (1) radiation induced attenuation (RIA), (2) radiation induced compaction (RIC), and (3) radiation induced emission (RIE). While RIA degrades the signal strength by creating different types of color centers in the silica fiber, RIC alters the density, and hence RI by displacing the host material atoms. However, Kramers-Kronig relation states that absorption, and hence the RIA, also modifies the RI of the silica fiber. Apart from RIA and RIC, other phenomena such as temperature, dose rate, stress relaxation, and dopant compositions exchange may change the RI. To overcome these problems, we have proposed an effective technique to measure the change in RI and compaction of optical fiber due to any specific phenomena the fiber is subjected to, including RIC, RIA, dopant diffusion, temperatures, dose, dose rate, etc. By knowing the individual contribution of RI and fiber length to the signal drift, it is possible to reduce the radiation induced signal drift in optical fiber sensors and provide accurate information regarding the temperature inside a radiation environment.

Fission gas detection in nuclear environments is another important aspect that needs to be focused on. Pressure induced by fission gases during irradiation may lead to loss of coolant accident (LOCA), which can cause severe damage to the NPPs. We have modeled and fabricated optical fiber-based sensors to enable real-time monitoring of fission gases, which allows understanding the implications of fission gas release during an accident, important for safe and high performance.