The design, development, and testing of a low-cost phase optical time-domain reflectometry (Phase-OTDR) system, intended for use in structural health monitoring (SHM) applications, are presented. Phase-OTDR is a technology that is growing and evolving at an impressive rate. Systems based on this principle are becoming very sensitive and elaborate and can perform very accurate condition monitoring, but at the same time, they are critically alignment-dependent and prohibitively costly to be considered as viable options in real field applications. Certain Phase-OTDR systems have been applied in real field studies, but these examples are mostly a proof-of-concept. The system presented here is the result of a compromise between performance and cost, using commercial components, specifically combined and tuned for SHM applications. The design and implementation of all the electronic and optoelectronic steps are presented, and the operation of the system is demonstrated, achieving a spatial resolution of ~6 m over 5 km. This work provides useful engineering guidelines for the low-cost implementation of Phase-OTDR systems. It is anticipated that the affordable development of such interrogation systems will promote their use in a wide range of SHM applications with moderate monitoring requirements and will assist the penetration of Phase-OTDR technology in the industry.
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