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SPIE Conference on Smart Structures and Materials, 5-6.03.

1997, San Diego, USA

Dam monitoring with fiber optics deformation sensors

Pascal Kronenberg 1 -, Nicoletta Casanova 1,2,3 , Daniele Inaudi 1,2, Samuel Vurpillot 1 IMAC - Stress Analysis Laboratory Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Department of Civil Engineering CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland SMARTEC SA via al Molino 6 CH-6916 Grancia, Switzerland IMM SA via al Molino 6 CH-6916 Grancia, Switzerland
3 2 1

The monitoring of dams represents an important task in the management of hydroelectric systems. Their economic, social and environmental value imposes to know well the real behavior of the structure and its foundations. This paper shows in two practical cases the possibility to improve the quality of deformation measurements by an appropriate fiber optics sensor network. The first case is a study showing the technical and economical feasibility to install an extended, spatial fiber optics deformation sensor network to detect the relative deflection of an entire shell dam. At this purpose the theoretic study has been evaluated on the base of typical load situations with their effective deflections on the Schiffenen dam, a shellshaped concrete structure near Fribourg (Switzerland). The second case concerns the development and realization of two long fiber optics deformation sensors (30 m and 40 m) anchored in the rock to monitor the displacement of the dam relatively to its underground. These sensors have been installed in the Emosson shell dam (Switzerland). Keywords: Dam Monitoring, Deformation Sensors, Fiber Optic Sensors


Monitoring always has been, due to the economic, social and environmental significance of hydroelectric structures, a substantial task in appropriate dam management. It is fundamental in order to guarantee the safety of the structure and its users but also to optimize the exploitation and the maintenance of the dam. The reasons that can guide to outfit dams with a fiber optics deformation sensor network have to be considered in two groups. Firstly there are many existing dams which are requiring additional monitoring either to replace an existing system the measurements of which dont satisfy any more, or to extend an existing monitoring network. These are installed to look closer at a particular, initially underestimated structural behavior (e.g. crack and joint opening, displacement of the dams foundation) or simply to increase the redundancy of the monitoring network. Secondly there are the new or the structurally upgraded (e.g. raising) dams where a monitoring network has to be installed. For these a fiber optics deformation sensor network can be integrated in the project from the beginning, which is in fact much easier because the sensors have fewer constraints relative to their installation.



SPIE Conference on Smart Structures and Materials, 5-6.03.1997, San Diego, USA

Indeed these arguments are valid for any monitoring system. But the common advantage in installing fiber optic sensors instead of classical sensors is linked to the particular characteristics of the monitoring system we have chosen. The SOFO system1 is insensitive to many environmental influences such as a variation of temperature, strong humidity or electromagnetic fields. These performances are actually predestined to the hostile environment found in dams. As varied the possible types of application are, as different can be the design of a fiber optic sensor to monitor them. Following we will present two typical applications which use both the same measurement system but are implemented with two different types of sensors.


2.1 Description The first case is a theoretical study done on the Schiffenen shell-mass dam near Fribourg in Switzerland to show the feasibility of monitoring the internal radial deflection of the structure with a spatial fiber optics deformation sensor network [8]. The Schiffenen dam is a 42 m high and 370 m long revolution bodied structure with a constant radius of 200 m at the axis of the coping. The transversal section is curvy shaped, 7 m (coping) to 13 m (footing) thick and invariable up to the borders where it is slightly more massive to better distribute the forces to the foundation. The idea is to get the curvature of the shell by a pair of standard fiber optics deformation sensors placed at different points. Then, by double integrating this curvature information and introducing the appropriate boundary conditions it is possible to extract the radial deflection of the dam. In the SPIE paper Mathematical model for the determination of the

Main system (bi-dimensional)

2 Subsystems (one-dimensional)
Radial deflection of the dam Sup. ARCH

Knot of ajustement ARCH - WALL SHELL Key WALL

Figure 1 Splitting of the shell structure in order to use the beam models to retrieve its deflection

vertical displacement from internal horizontal measurements of a bridge [4] we have seen that this model works well for linear structures such as beams, but is it also applicable to bi-dimensional shells? Indeed it is, we only have to consider the shell as a net of perpendicular, one-dimensional arches and walls we analyze separately. The knots of this static network are serving as points of adjustment to bring the deflections of the two subsystems together (fig. 1). This technique has already been approved for the pre-dimensioning of shells. The sensor setup chosen for this application gives only the internal deformation of the dam. In order to link this deformation to an external reference we use the border conditions received from other monitoring systems such as inclinometers, geodesy / GPS, pendulums or (fiber optics 2 ) extensometers. In the case of this study the shell has been
1 2

French acronym for SURVEILLANCE DOUVRAGE PAR FIBRE OPTIQUE [7] See chapter 3. Emosson Shell Dam

SPIE Conference on Smart Structures and Materials, 5-6.03.1997, San Diego, USA

modeled by one arch-strip at the coping acting as a horizontal, partially fixed ended beam and by one wall-strip at the key acting as a vertical cantilever beam. As the two subsystems are solicited just by distributed loads (water, temperature), we can simplify the mathematical model by considering each subsystem as only one section (continuous load, geometrical continuity of the axis and continuous stiffness). 2.2 Sensor network setup The Schiffenen dam is an already existing structure. Therefore the setup of an additional fiber sensor network is subjected to a few constraints to be respected. In order to limit the installation costs, the network setup has to be external; e.g. the sensors are mounted on the surface of the concrete without the need to bore supplementary holes in the dam. As the dam cant be emptied completely at any moment, an underwater-installation of wall-sensors on the upstream side would be difficult and expensive. Nevertheless horizontal arch-sensors which are not immerged in the water can be disposed without any inconvenience. So the only places easy to access are the coping (up- and downstream), the entire downstream face of the dam and the galleries. The sensor we propose for this application is the standard SOFO sensor, now commercialized by SMARTEC SA [5]. It fits well because we are using an external setup where the local geometrical situation isnt restrictive. Therefore no special sensor design is needed. The SOFO sensors are simply fixed on corner irons that are plugged into the concrete. Accordingly to this, the network has been defined as a horizontal (arch) and a vertical (wall) cell line 3 , intersecting at the top of bloc 12 (fig. 2, 3). To be able to monitor the curvature of the structure, every cell needs an up- and a downstream sensor. For the vertical cell line the downstream sensors are located Fiber optics sensor (SOFO) on the downstream dam face while the upstream sensors are placed in the central gallery. The sensors of the Figure 2 Section of the Schiffenen dam horizontal cell line are situated just with the suggested fiber optics sensor below the coping on either face of the setup dam. This configuration allows us to benefit of the large cantilever between the two sensors. The chosen sensor network topology is prepared for Figure 3 Inverted elevation of the use in a multiplexing environment [3]. The sensor the Schiffenen dam with the lines of each network branch (6 * 6 partial reflector suggested sensor setup sensors) could be reassembled in the central monitoring chamber below the coping over an optical

Cell = network element that gives one curvature information (in the current application -> 2 sensors / cell)

Fiber optics sensor (SOFO)

SPIE Conference on Smart Structures and Materials, 5-6.03.1997, San Diego, USA

switch to one(!) fiber optic cable, which is connected to the reading unit situated near the dam. Using this configuration the complete structure can be monitored without any manual intervention in the dam. 2.3 Monitoring accuracy In the last chapter we have seen that the installation of a fiber optics sensor network is possible. But another question that still stays open is the quantity of cells, the length of the sensors and their exact emplacement we need to achieve a good monitoring accuracy of the radial deflection of the dam. It is evident that the number of sensors to install needs to be looked at not only from the scientists point of view but is definitely a compromise to get a good quality of result at a reasonable price. The better the redundancy (and so the accuracy of the final result) is, the more expansive it will be. By observing the radial deflection of the shell simulated by a finite element calculation we can see that the deflection of the coping can be well modeled by a degree 7 polynomial (P7 (x)) and the one of the central wall by a P4 (x) under the most common load situations (water, temperature). Based on this hypothesis and in view of a sufficient redundancy to eliminate measurement errors the number of cells has been fixed to 12 for the coping and 6 for the wall, which is in fact twice the necessary minimum for the chosen polynomials. The simulation of Monte Carlo handles the error analysis we have made to retrieve the accuracy of the dam deflection. It varies the input values arbitrarily in a range defined by theirs standard deviations to analyze the standard deviation of the deflection (fig. 4).

xi dx

v( x) = ( x, y, L, L )( x) dx 2

y i dy Monte-Carlo Simulation Li dL
x i: Abscise coordinate of each cell y i: Cantilever distance between 2 sensors of a cell Li: Length of cell (sensor) Lj: Deformation of sensor v(x): Deflection

v(x) dv

Lj d L


Figure 4 Schema of the error simulation to retrieve the standard deviation of v(x)

This simulation has been executed for a given mean deflection by changing the free input values x and L; y is fixed by the dams geometry, L depends on the imposed mean deflection. The standard deviations dx, dy, dL and d L are supposed to be constant, conform to the accuracy each variable can be measured with.

Standard deviations dx dy dL d L 50 mm 5 mm 25 mm 5 m + 1%

SPIE Conference on Smart Structures and Materials, 5-6.03.1997, San Diego, USA

The final result, after a few optimizations, has quite an encouraging aspect (fig. 5, 6).


Schiffenen Dam (CH)

25.0 0.68 mm 15.0 0.50 mm 0.58 mm

Projected deflection of the coping Error analysis

0.66 mm 0.70 mm 0.71 mm 0.73 mm 0.72 mm 0.68 mm 0.67 mm

1.02 mm

5.0 v(x) [mm] x [m] 0 -5.0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350



imposed deflection v(x) -35.0 standard deviation dv

Figure 5 Radial deflection of the coping with its simulated error distribution. A typical deflection has been imposed.

When we calculate the two subsystems independently we get aware that in the knot of adjustment dv of the arch is much more important than dv of the wall due to the lower sensor density in the arch. Instead of installing more sensors in the arch it is much more interesting to take the top-deflection of the wall as a boundary condition for the mid-deflection of the arch. In this way the arch can profit by the better accuracy of the wall.







-5.0 -2 x [m]



10.0 v(x) [mm] 0.64 mm

0.55 mm -7 0.47 mm


0.40 mm


0.32 mm


0.25 mm

0.18 mm -27 0.12 mm -32 0.06 mm

Schiffenen Dam (CH)

Projected deflection of the key wall Error analysis


0.02 mm imposed deflection v(x)


0.00 mm

standard deviation dv

Figure 6 Radial deflection of the key wall with its simulated error distribution. The top deflection serves as a boundary condition for the arch.

SPIE Conference on Smart Structures and Materials, 5-6.03.1997, San Diego, USA

Regarding the border conditions of the two systems we have introduced them as they are, e.g. without a special standard deviation. They are defined by two pendulums on each side of the arch and by an inverted pendulum plus an inclinometer at the footing of the wall. Only the wall-to-arch adjustment condition follows the standard deviation given by the wall deflection. The fact that the arch is fixed by 3 boundary conditions makes that the position of the deflection curve is hyper-determined in its external reference. We can see this by observing the borders where the deflection cant follow the fixed 0-standard deviation. Compared to the standard deviations we used for the input the resulting dv is very satisfying. For the fixed setup dv equals not more than 1 mm for the whole network, at the adjustment knot even less (dv = 0.7 mm dv/v = 3%). Actually these results show well how a good sensor redundancy can improve the mediocre accuracy on x, y and L to get a reliable accuracy on the deflection monitoring. By doing a sensibility study it is possible to see that dy has much more influence on dv than dx or dL. It is therefore very interesting to have a good accuracy on the measurement of y. Finally, the optimized network setup that has been retained is indicated on the two plans. There is total sensor quantity of 36 pieces; their length is 3 m for the arch respectively 2 m for the wall, with a higher sensor concentration in the center of the arch. 2.4 Conclusions The error simulation shows, that the deflection accuracy can be much improved either by optimizing the hardware (sensor network topology, sensor length, boundary condition sensors) or simply by adapting the software (calculation model, definition of boundary conditions). For the retained setup the total installation cost (incl. 36 sensors, optical switch and a reading unit) is cheaper then an equivalent, classical dam monitoring system. Further, the measurement campaigns dont cost anything since the system runs automatically. It is important to insist that this project is not a real application but only a feasibility study, in which we suppose that all the installed sensors and the structure work as prognosticated. In a real project there would certainly be a more complex and denser network installed in order to prevent any incertitude due to sensor failure or unexpected structural behavior. Concerning the structural behavior it would actually be indispensable to investigate more on structural discontinuities like the vertical joints between wall blocs or geometrical impurities (i.e. overflows, connected tower elements or any shape related details) by applying finite element modeling in order to adapt the network at these points.

SPIE Conference on Smart Structures and Materials, 5-6.03.1997, San Diego, USA


3.1 Description This very practical application concerns the development and setup of two long SOFO sensors (30 m and 39 m) that have to replace mechanic rockmeters anchored in the underground of the Emosson shell dam in the Swiss Alps. The Emosson dam is situated near Martigny just on the borderline to France at about 1900 m.o.s. It is 180 m high and at its coping is 550 m long, with a thickness varying from 10 m (coping) to 35 m (footing) (fig. 7). 3.2 Sensor development The primary goal of this research project was to develop a fiber optics extensometer that can replace an existing mechanical rockmeter [1, 11]. The task to replace a sensor without modifying its original setup context is much more delicate then to add a new sensor in a well-prepared and -adapted environment. The sensor we were about to develop should have the same characteristics Figure 7 View of the Emosson shell dam in the Swiss Alps as the standard concrete-one, i.e. a couple of two fibers. The measurement fiber is in mechanical contact with the structure itself and will therefore follow its deformations in both elongation and shortening. The reference fiber is installed free alongside the measurement fiber in order to compensate the temperature effects [6]. In this particular case, when we were thinking about the new sensors design, the most important criteria were its anchorage systems, its section and its length. As we had to maintain the original anchorage system in the rock it is essential that the same bayonet-anchoring piece that is fixed on the existing extensometer can also be mounted on the fiber optics sensor. On the other end of the sensor we had to find an anchoring system that can be fixed to the metallic referential plate in the gallery which serves as a measurement point in the dam. Secondly the section of the new sensor had to be defined to fit in the original borehole of the mechanical extensometer. This was the hardest challenge in the design because at the same time the quite complex sensor section had to be miniaturized by still guaranteeing the mechanical independence of the measurement and the reference fiber4 . Finally, the knowledge of the exact active length (between the two measurement points) is recommended to prepare the sensor the way that the anchoring can be done precisely with the obligatory 0.5% pre-stress introduced on site. Once the design is fixed up, we could start the mounting of the sensor. Therefore a special, straight mounting-bank had to be installed to determine the correct length of the components. The reference fiber in its microtube was then introduced in a small separator tube (nylon) and together with the measurement fiber, also in a microtube, clued to the anchoring piece. To allow the bayonet anchoring of the sensor down in its borehole, the whole assemblage was inserted in a 12 mm PVC mounting tube that is attached to the lower anchoring piece (fig. 8).

For long sensors there is a special design required where the loose reference and the stressed measurement fiber have to be separated to avoid an interaction (friction, mechanical coupling) [2].

SPIE Conference on Smart Structures and Materials, 5-6.03.1997, San Diego, USA

Separating tube

Microtube with reference fiber PVC mounting tube Microtube with measurement fiber Figure 8 Sensor section

In the dam the sensor can then be (un-)anchored by simply bending this torsion-rigid tube at the borehole-entrance. On the other end of the measurement zone (in the dam gallery) the upper anchoring piece of the sensor is gliding freely out of the mounting tube and is attached to the reference plate by a wedging screw. In the upper anchoring piece (d = 8.5 mm) we have also placed the coupler and the necessary splices. The assembly of the sensor is quite labor-intensive. The length of the sensor makes it quasi imperative to have 2 people working for a whole day for each sensor. This is actually one of the major problems with long sensors compared to short ones [5]. On the other hand this task is also quite delicate. The fibers have to be cut very precisely in order not to be out of range while scanning. 3.3 Sensor installation As the two sensors are installed inside the dam, we had to respect the local accessibility (dimension of elevator, doors, gallery,). For the transport from the lab to the site the sensors had been spun up on a wooden cross. In the dam, once the old mechanical extensometer was dismounted, the installation of the new fiber optics sensor processed rapidly. Within half a day the sensor was made ready to measure (fig. 9, 10).



MEASUREMENT Fiber (pre-stress 0.5%)



Monitoring zone


Mobile mirror

A /D Filte rA m pli P h oto - L E D Dio d e 1 3 00 n m

Int er na lP C

Portable PC

Portable reading unit

Figure 9 Installation setup of a fiber optics extensometer

SPIE Conference on Smart Structures and Materials, 5-6.03.1997, San Diego, USA

When preparing a sensor in the lab it is very important to be aware of the climatic conditions present on the site. Especially for a dam gallery where the relative humidity goes up to 90% and the temperature is all the year at about 3 to 4 C this information has to be considered when the dimensions or the materials of a sensor are defined. The shortening of the mounting tube due to the temperature variation lab -> site for example can easily attain a few centimeters and the tube will disappear in the hole! To centralize the monitoring of the new sensors, which are each on one side of the dam, optic extension cords have been installed. Now the two sensors are ready to be scanned from one point without having to displace the reading unit. Using this setup it is even possible to monitor the sensors automatically over a longer period without any human intervention.

Figures 10 A few pictures of the sensor installation and the definitive setup

3.4 Results As the sensors have only been installed by the end of 1996 the measurement campaign is just about to take off. Unfortunately, by the deadline of this paper the measurements are too few to make any conclusions about the correctness of their evolution. In a few months, when we have more measurements, a comparative study will be done between the fiber optics sensors and neighboring mechanical extensometers in order to verify the results. The schedule plans to monitor the sensors during a year (one load cycle) at monthly intervals, together with the usual monitoring campaign of the dam. Then, in addition to this, a more frequent monitoring campaign is scheduled for a month with automatic measurements every hour. 3.5 Conclusion We have demonstrated that the realization of a long fiber optics extensometer for underground monitoring is possible, even if the existing sensor context (borehole, anchoring system, length) cant be modified. A well-designed sensor can be completely mounted in the lab and can be installed on the site in less than an hour without having to touch any optical fiber. The Emosson project shows in an interesting way that the research and the development of new sensor types not necessarily have to be done in lab conditions. The collaboration with industrial partners (in this case Emosson Electricity Inc.) gives us the opportunity to check sensor equipment in a real environment under all the imposed severe constraints (temperature, humidity, accessibility).

SPIE Conference on Smart Structures and Materials, 5-6.03.1997, San Diego, USA

The authors are indebted to Prof. L. Pflug, Prof. R. Sinniger, M. Pedretti, R. Passera, L. Mouvet, J.-M. Rouiller, R. Delez, G. Steinmann, X. Rodicio, A. Osa-Wyser, J. Hugon and the whole IMAC and EMOSSON teams for their help and useful discussion. The Emosson dam project could be realized thanks to the financial support of Emosson Electricity Inc. The SOFO research program is conducted under the financial aid of the Swiss CTI (Commission pour la Technologie et lInnovation) and the Board of the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology.

For further information on the SOFO project look at the following WWW home page: [1] Low-coherence interferometry for the monitoring of underground works, D. Inaudi, L. Vulliet, L. Pflug, S. Vurpillot, A. Wyser, 1995 North American Conference on Smart Structures and Materials, San Diego February 1995, Volume 2444, 171-178 [2] Development and laboratory tests of deformation fiber optic sensors for civil engineering applications, L. Vuillet, N. Casanova, D. Inaudi, A. Osa-Wyser, S. Vurpillot, International Symposium on Lasers, Optics and Vision for Productivity in Manufacturing, Europto Series, Besanon, 10-14 June 1996 [3] In-line coherence multiplexing of displacement sensors: a fiber optic extensometer, D. Inaudi, S. Vurpillot , S. Lloret, Smart Structures and materials, San Diego February 1996, SPIE Volume 2718-28 [4] Mathematical model for the determination of the vertical displacement from internal horizontal measurements of a bridge S. Vurpillot, D. Inaudi, A. Scanno, Smart Structures and materials, San Diego February 1996, SPIE Volume 2719-05 [5] Embedded and surface mounted fiber optics sensors for civil structural monitoring, D. Inaudi, N. Casanova, P. Kronenberg, S. Marazzi, S. Vurpillot; Smart Structures and Materials 97, San Diego, SPIE Vol. 3044 [6] Development and field test of deformation sensors for concrete embedding, D. Inaudi, S. Vurpillot, N. Casanova, A. Osa-Wyser, Smart Structures and Materials 96, San Diego, SPIE Vol. 2721 [7] Bridge Monitoring by Interferometric Deformation Sensors, D. Inaudi, S. Vurpillot, N. Casanova; Laser Optoelectronics and Microphotonics: Fiber Optics Sensors, SPIE, Beijing November 1996 [8] SOFO: Application un barrage-vote en exploitation, P. Kronenberg; Travail de diplme 1996, IMAC-DGC / EPFL [9] Smart structures and materials, Brian Culshaw; Ed.1, Artech House 1996 [10] Improvement of existing dam monitoring: recommendations and case histories, Commission Internationale des Grands Barrages; Paris 1992 [11] Suggested Methods for Monitoring Rock Mouvments using Borehole Extensometers, Int. society for rockmechanics; Oxford a.o., 1978, International Journal of rock mechanics and mining sciences, vol. 15, no. 6, pp.305-368