Fiber connector has traditionally been the biggest concern in using fiber optic systems. While connectors were once unwiedy and difficult to use, connector manufacturers have standardized and simplified connectors greatly. This increases the user use convenient increase in the use of optical fiber systems; It is also emphasising taken proper care of and deal with the optical connector. This article covers connector basics including the parts of a fiber optic connector, installing fiber optic connectors, and the cleaning and handling of installed connectors. For information on connector loss, see Connector Loss Test Measurement.
Optical fiber to fiber optic interconnection can be made by a joint, a permanent connection, or a connector, and is different from the plug in it can be to disconnect and reconnect. Fiber optic connector types are as various as the applications for which they were developed. Different connector types have different characteristics, different advantages and disadvantages, and different performance parameters. But all connectors have the same four basic components.
The fiber is installed in a long, thin cylinder, the ferrule, which act as a fiber alignment mechanism. The ferrule is bored through the center at a diameter that is slightly larger than the diameter of the fiber cladding. The end of the fiber is located at the end of the ferrule. Ferrules are typically made of metal or ceramic, but they may also be constructed of plastic.
The Connector Body
Also known as the connector housing, the body holds the ferrule. It is usually constructed of metal or plastic and includes one or more assembled pieces which hold the fiber in place. The details of these connector body assemblies vary among connectors, but the welding and/or crimping is commonly used to attach strength members and cable jackets to the connector body. The ferrule extends past the connector body to slip into the couping device.
The cable is attached to the connector body. It acts as the point of entry for the fiber. Often, a strain relief boot is added over the junctioni between the cable and the connector body, providing extra stength to the junction.
The Coupling Device
Most fiber optic connectors do not use the male-female configuration common to electronic connectors. Instead, a coupling device such as an alignment sleeve is used to mate the connectors. Similar devices may be installed in fiber optic transmitters and receivers to allow these devices to be mated via a connector. These devices are also known as feed-through bulkhead adapters.
Table 1 illustrates some types of optical connectors and lists some specifications. Each connector type has strong points.
Table 1- Types Of Optical Connectors
Installing Fiber Optic Connectors
The method for attaching fiber optic connectors to optical fibers varies among connector types. While not intended to be a definitive guide, the following steps are given as a reference for the basic of optical fiber interconnection.
Cut the cable one inch longer than the required finished length.
Carefully strip the outer jacket of the fiber with “no nick” fiber strippers. Cut the exposed strength members, and remove the fiber coating. The fiber coating can be removed in two ways: a. by soaking the fiber for two minutes in paint thinner and wiping the fiber clean with a soft, lint-free cloth; b. by carefully stripping the fiber with afiber stripper. Be sure to use strippers made specifically for use strippers made specifically for use with fiber rather than metal wire strippers as damage can occur, weakening the fiber.
Thoroughly clean the bared fiber with isopropyl alcohol poured onto a soft, lint-free cloth such as kimwipes. NEVER clean the fiber with a dry tissue.
Note: Use only industrial grade 99% pure isopropyl alcohol. Commercially available medicinal and isopropyl alcohol is light mineral oil dilution water. Industrial grade isopropyl alcohol should be dedicated.
The connector may be connected by applying epoxy or by crimping. If using expoxy, fill the connector with enough epoxy to allow a small bead of epoxy to form at the tip of the connector. Insert the clean, stripped fiber into the connector. Cure the epoxy according to the instructions provided by the epoxy manufacturer.
Anchor the cable strength members to the connector body. This prevents direct stress on the fiber. Slide the back end of the connector into place (where applicable).
Prepare fiber face to achieve a good optical finish by cleaving and polishing the fiber end. Before the connection is made, the end of each fiber must have a smooth finish that is free of defects such as hackles, lips, and fractures. These defects, as well as other impurities and dirt change geometry transmission patterns of light and scattered.
Cleaving involves cutting the fiber end flush with the end of the ferrule. Cleaving, also called the scrible-and-break method of fiber end face preparation, takes some skill to achieve optimum results. Properly handled, the cleave produces a perpendicular, mirror-like finish. Incorrect cracks will cause the lips and the comb as shown in Figure 2. While cleaving may be done by hand, a cleaver tool, available from such manufacturers as Fujikura and FiberStore, allows for a more consistent finish and reduces the overall skill required.
The steps listed below outline one procedure for producing good, consistent cleaves such as the one shown in Figure 3. 1. Place the blade of the cleaver tool at the tip of the ferrule. 2. Gently score the fiber across the cladding region in one direction. If the scoring is not done lightly, the fiber may break, making it necessary to reterminate the fiber. 3. Pull the excess, cleaved fiber up and away from the ferrule. 4. Carefully dress the nub of the fiber with a piece of 12-micron alumina-oxide paper. 5. Do the final polishing. (See Figure 3.)
After clean cleave has been achieved, the fiber end face is attached to a polishing brush, and the fiber is ground and polished. The proper finish is achieved by rubbing the computerized fiber end against polishing paper in a figure-eight pattern approximately sixty times.
To increase the ease and repeatability of connector installation, some companies provide the connector kits. Some kits are specific to the type of connector to be installed while others supply the user with general tools and informationi for connecting different types of connectors. Some connectors require the use of an alignment sleeve, also called an interconnection sleeve. This sleeve serves to increase repeatability from connection to connection.
Care and Handling of Fiber Optic Connectors
A number of events can damage fiber optic connectors. Unprotected connector ends can experience damage by impact, airborne dust particles, or excess humidity or moisture. Increase the optical output power of modern lasers may damage a connector, an often overlooked factor in discussions about handling and caring for optical fibers and connectors. Most designers tend to think of the power levels in optical fibers as relatively insignificant. However, a few milliatts at 850nm will do permanent damage to a retina. Today, optical amplifiers can generate optical powers of 1 watt of more into a single-mode fiber. This becomes quite significant when one considers that the optical power is confined in the optical core only a few microns in diameter. Power densities in a single-mode fiber carrying an optical power of 1 Watt (+30 dBm) can reach 3 megawatts/cm2 or 30 gigawatts/m2! To put it in everyday terms, sunlight at the surface of the Earth has a power density of about 1,000 Watts/m2. Most organic materials will combust when exposed to radiant energies of 100 kilowatts/m2. Clearly, power densities of 30 gigawatts/m2 deserve attention.
Another important thing to remember in handling fiber optic connector is that the fiber end face and ferrule must be absolutely clean before it is inserted into a transmitter or receiver. Dust, lint, oil (from touching the fiber end face), or other foreign particles obscure the end face, compromising the integrity of the optical signal being sent over the fiber. From the optical signal’s point-of-view, dirty connections are like dirty windows. Less light gets through a dirty window than a clean one. It is hard to conceive of the size of a fiber optic connector core. Single-mode fibers have cores that are only 8-9 µm in diameter. As a point of reference, a typical human hair is 50-75 µm in diameter, approximately 6-9 times larger! Fiber optic connectors need to be cleaned every time they are mated and unmated; it is essential that fiber optics users develop the necessary discipline to always clean the connectors before they are mated. It is also important to cover a fiber optic connector when it is not in use.
Never touch the fiber end face of the connector.
Connectors not in use should be covered over the ferrule by a plastic dust cap. it is important to note that inside of the ferrule dust caps contain a sticky residue that is a by product of making the dust cap. This residue will remain on the ferrule end after the cap is removed.
The use of index-matching gel, a gelatinous substance that has a refractive index close to that of the optical fiber, is a point of contention between connector manufacturers. Glycerin, available in any drug store, is a low-cost, effective index-matching gel. Using glycerin will reduce connector loss and back reflection, often dramatically. However, the index-matching gel may collect dust or abrasives that can damage the fiber end faces. It may also leak out over time, causing backreflections to increase.