The term “fiber optics” means the use of dielectric waveguides to transfer information. In aircraft systems with digital controls, fiber optics has advantages over wire systems because of its inherent immunity to electromagnetic noise (EMI) and electromagnetic pulses (EMP). It also offers a weight benefit when metallic conductors are replaced by optical fibers. To take full advantage of the benefits of optical waveguides, passive optical sensors are also being developed to eliminate the need for electrical power to the sensor. Fiber optics may also be used for controlling actuators on engine and airframe. In this application, the optical fibers, connectors, etc., will be subjected to high temperatures and vibrations. This paper discusses the use of fiber optics in aircraft propulsion systems, together with the optical sensors and optically controlled actuators being developed to take full advantage of the benefits which fiber optics offers. The requirements for sensors and actuators in advanced propulsion systems are identified. The benefits of using fiber optics in place of conventional wire systems are discussed as well as the environmental conditions under which the optical components must operate. Work being done under contract to NASA Lewis on optical and optically activated actuators sensors for propulsion control systems is presented.

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