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Railway monitoring

Railway infrastructure and systems play an important role in providing the highly efficient transport needed to meet the growing demand for freight and passenger transport.

These structures are highly susceptible to degradation and failure due to extreme environmental conditions under severe loading and working conditions caused by traffic growth, heavier axles and vehicles, and increased speeds. Innovative sensing technologies based on fibre optic sensors have been used for Structural Health Monitoring (SHM), the real-time measurement and long-term assessment of structural properties.

Monitoring system

A fibre optic structural health monitoring system enables early detection and characterisation of damage, leading to timely repair and prevention of catastrophic failure. The use of fibre optic sensors for structural health monitoring is in high demand due to their inherent advantages such as small size, light weight and immunity to electromagnetic systems. In addition, the geometry and versatility of these sensors allows them to be integrated into these structures for real-time monitoring of critical components of both railways and trains over long distances (up to 20 km).


A fibre optic monitoring system can be used for operational monitoring (train speed and components) and structural health monitoring (rails, sleepers, ballast, bridges, tunnels, rail safety, etc.) of railway structures. Such a system is widely used due to its ability to measure physical quantities (such as strain, temperature, displacement, cracks, etc.) continuously distributed over the entire length of the fibre.

Image by Todd Trapani

Project: Railway monitoring

Fibre optic accelerometers are used to monitor track condition, detect wheel defects and detect the presence and direction of trains. By combining these applications with artificial intelligence, potential rail accidents and catastrophic train derailments can be prevented.


For this project, fibre-optic accelerometers are attached to the T-beam of the railway and measure acceleration (g).


Some of the many benefits:

  • Fibre optic is immune to electromagnetic interference (EMI) and is therefore well suited to measuring various parameters of a railway track.

  • A robust fibre optic accelerometer can measure the impact of the wheels on the track and detect potential damage from a faulty wheel.

  • Fibre optic sensors are easy to install on the track and have unprecedented reliability. Models predict years of maintenance free operation

  • The Somni fibre optic sensor design can be easily extended to cover kilometres of track and additional sensors can be easily added to increase insight into specific parts of the track.

Somni Corporation bv

Rotterdamseweg 183C

2629 HD Delft

The Netherlands

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