This paper presents the design and development of a friction-based coupling device for a fiber-optic monitoring system capable of measuring pressure, strain, and temperature that can be deployed on existing subsea structures. A summary is provided of the design concept, prototype development, prototype performance testing, and subsequent design refinements of the device. The results of laboratory testing of the first prototype performed at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Johnson Space Center (JSC) are also included. Limitations of the initial concept were identified during testing and future design improvements were proposed and later implemented. These new features enhance the coupling of the sensor device and improve the monitoring system measurement capabilities.

A major challenge of a post-installed instrumentation monitoring system is to ensure adequate coupling between the instruments and the structure of interest for reliable measurements. Friction-based devices have the potential to overcome coupling limitations caused by marine growth and soil contamination on flowlines, risers, and other subsea structures. The work described in this paper investigates the design and test of a friction-based coupling device (herein referred to as a friction clamp) which is suitable for pipelines and structures that are suspended in the water column as well as for those that are resting on the seabed. The monitoring elements consist of fiber-optic sensors that are bonded to a stainless steel clamshell assembly with a high-friction surface coating. The friction clamp incorporates a single hinge design to facilitate installation of the clamp and dual rows of opposing fasteners to distribute the clamping force along the structure. The friction clamp can be modified to be installed by commercial divers in shallow depths or by remotely operated vehicles in deep-water applications. NASA-JSC was involved in the selection and testing of the friction coating, and in the design and testing of the prototype clamp device. Four-inch diameter and eight-inch diameter sub-scale friction clamp prototypes were built and tested to evaluate the strain measuring capabilities of the design under different loading scenarios. The testing revealed some limitations of the initial design concept, and subsequent refinements were explored to improve the measurement performance of the system.

This study was part of a collaboration between NASA-JSC and Astro Technology Inc. within a study called Clear Gulf. The primary objective of the Clear Gulf study is to develop advanced instrumentation technologies that will improve operational safety and reduce the risk of hydrocarbon spillage. NASA provided unique insights, expansive test facilities, and technical expertise to advance technologies that will benefit the environment, the public, and commercial industries.

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