Along temperature, humidity is one of the principal environmental factors that plays an important role in various application areas. Presented work investigates possibility of distributed fiberoptic humidity monitoring based on humidity-induced strain measurement in polyimide (PI)-coated optical fibers. Characterization of relative humidity (RH) and temperature response of four different commercial PI- and one acrylate-coated fiber was performed using optical backscattering reflectometry (OBR). The study addresses issues of temperature-humidity cross-sensitivity, fiber response stability, repeatability, and the influence of annealing. Acrylate-coated fiber exhibited rather unfavorable nonlinear RH response with strong temperature dependence, which makes it unsuitable for humidity sensing applications. On the other hand, humidity response of PI-coated fibers showed good linearity with fiber sensitivity slightly decreasing at rising temperatures. In the tested range, temperature sensitivity of the fibers remained humidity independent. Thermal annealing was shown to considerably improve and stabilize fiber RH response. Based on performed analysis, a 20 m sensor using the optimal PI-coated fibers was proposed and constructed. The sensor uses dual sensing fiber configuration for mutual decoupling and simultaneous measurement of temperature and RH variations. Using OBR, distributed dual temperature-RH monitoring with cm spatial resolution was demonstrated for the first time.
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