Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Physics and Astronomy

Degree Program

Physics, PhD

Committee Chair

Kielkopf, John

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Brown, David N.

Committee Member

Brown, David N.

Committee Member

Sumanesekera, Gamini

Committee Member

Naber, John

Author's Keywords

high dynamic range; electronics instrumentation design; mechanical design; optical testing; fiber optics; instrumentation


Much of what we know about fundamental physical law and the universe derives from observations and measurements using optical methods. The passive use of the electromagnetic spectrum can be the best way of studying physical phenomenon in general with minimal disturbance of the system in the process. While for many applications ambient visible light is sufficient, light outside of the visible range may convey more information. The signals of interest are also often a small fraction of the background, and their changes occur on time scales so quickly that they are visually imperceptible. This thesis reports techniques and technologies developed for sensing and detecting rapid transient phenomenon using ambient light in the infrared (IR) spectrum. Currently, high dynamic range optical sensor technology leveraging low-noise and real-time signal processing is employed for applications to human, animal and structural health monitoring, Earth surface motion and environmental monitoring, material defect analysis and astronomy. This work describes the development and fabrication of devices that are made using a novel 32-bit data acquisition system (DAQ), as well as custom-designed circuits for integrating current optical sensing devices into systems for such applications. This thesis also describes the design, construction, and application of an impulse generator for materials testing and a custom-designed Ethernet-connected automated optical fiber positioning stage with examples of their applications to passive non-contact optical sensing.