Femtosecond laser processing of evanescence field coupled waveguides in single mode glass fibers for optical 3D shape sensing and navigation
Fiber Bragg grating based optical shape sensing is a new and promising approach to gather position and path information in environments where classical imaging systems fail. Especially a real-time in-vivo navigation of medical catheter or endoscope without any further requirements (such as the continuous exposure to x-rays) could provide a huge advantage in countless areas in medicine. Multicore fibers or bundles of glass fibers have been suggested for realizing such shape sensors, but to date all suffer from severe disadvantages. We present the realization of a third approach. With femtosecond laser pulses local waveguides are inscribed into the cladding of a standard single mode glass fiber. The evanescence field of the main fiber core couples to two S-shaped waveguides, which carry the light to high reflective fiber Bragg gratings located approx. 30 mu m away from the centered fiber core in an orthogonal configuration. Part of the reflected light is coupled back to the fiber core and can be read out by a fiber Bragg grating interrogator. A typical spectrum is presented as well as the sensor signal for bending in all directions and with different radii. The entire sensor plane has an elongation of less than 4 mm and therefore enables even complicated and localized navigation applications such as medical catheters. Finally a complete 3D shape sensor in a single mode fiber is presented together with an exemplary application for motion capturing.