Monday, March 23, 2009

Connector Loss - Insertion Loss & Return Loss


Connector and Splice Loss Mechanisms

Connector and splice loss is caused by a number of factors. Loss is minimized when the two fiber cores are identical and perfectly aligned, the connectors or splices are properly finished and no dirt is present. Only the light that is coupled into the receiving fiber's core will propagate, so all the rest of the light becomes the connector or splice loss.

End gaps cause two problems, insertion loss and return loss. The emerging cone of light from the connector will spill over the core of the receiving fiber and be lost. In addition, the air gap between the fibers causes a reflection when the light encounters the change n refractive index from the glass fiber to the air in the gap. This reflection (called fresnel reflection) amounts to about 5% in typical flat polished connectors, and means that no connector with an air gap can have less than 0.3 dB loss. This reflection is also referred to as back reflection or optical return loss, which can be a problem in laser based systems. Connectors use a number of polishing techniques to insure physical contact of the fiber ends to minimize back reflection. On mechanical splices, it is possible to reduce back reflection by using non-perpendicular cleaves, which cause back reflections to be absorbed in the cladding of the fiber.

The end finish of the fiber must be properly polished to minimize loss. A rough surface will scatter light and dirt can scatter and absorb light. Since the optical fiber is so small, typical airborne dirt can be a major source of loss. Whenever connectors are not terminated, they should be covered to protect the end of the ferrule from dirt. One should never touch the end of the ferrule, since the oils on one's skin causes the fiber to attract dirt. Before connection and testing, it is advisable to clean connectors with lint-free wipes moistened with isopropyl alcohol.

Two sources of loss are directional; numerical aperture (NA) and core diameter. Differences in these two will create connections that have different losses depending on the direction of light propagation. Light from a fiber with a larger NA will be more sensitive to angularity and end gap, so transmission from a fiber of larger NA to one of smaller NA will be higher loss than the reverse. Likewise, light from a larger fiber will have high loss coupled to a fiber of smaller diameter, while one can couple a small diameter fiber to a large diameter fiber with minimal loss, since it is much less sensitive to end gap or lateral offset.

These fiber mismatches occur for two reasons. The occasional need to interconnect two dissimilar fibers and production variances in fibers of the same nominal dimensions. With two multimode fibers in usage today and two others which have been used occasionally in the past and several types of singlemode fiber in use, it is possible to sometimes have to connect dissimilar fibers or use systems designed for one fiber on another. Some system manufacturers provide guidelines on using various fibers, some don't. If you connect a smaller fiber to a larger one, the coupling losses will be minimal, often only the fresnel loss (about 0.3 dB). But connecting larger fibers to smaller ones results in substantial losses, not only due to the smaller cores size, but also the smaller NA of most small core fibers.

Connector Ferrule Shapes & Polishes
Fiber optic connectors can have several different ferrule shapes or finishes, usually referred to as polishes. early connectors, because they did not have keyed ferrules and could rotate in mating adapters, always had an air gap between the connectors to prevent them rotating and grinding scratches into the ends of the fibers.
Beginning with the ST and FC which had keyed ferrules, the connectors were designed to contact tightly, what we now call physical contact (PC) connectors. Reducing the air gap reduced the loss and back reflection (very important to laser-based singlemode systems ), since light has a loss of about 5% (~0.25 dB) at each air gap and light is reflected back up the fiber. While air gap connectors usually had losses of 0.5 dB or more and return loss of 20 dB, PC connectors had typical losses of 0.3 dB and a return loss of 30 to 40 dB.
Soon thereafter, it was determined that making the connector ferrules convex would produce an even better connection. The convex ferrule guaranteed the fiber cores were in contact. Losses were under 0.3dB and return loss 40 dB or better. The final solution for singlemode systems extremely sensitive to reflections, like CATV or high bitrate telco links, was to angle the end of the ferrule 8 degrees to create what we call an APC or angled PC connector. Then any reflected light is at an angle that is absorbed in the cladding of the fiber.
Insertion loss and return loss are two important data to evaluate the quality of many passive fiber optic components, such as fiber optic patch cord and fiber optic connectors, etc.

Insertion loss refers to the fiber optic light loss caused when a fiber optic component insert into another one to form the fiber optic link. Insertion loss can result from absorption, misalignment or air gap between the fiber optic components. We want the insertion loss to be as less as possible. Our fiber optic components insertion loss is less than 0.2dB typical, less than 0.1dB types available on request.

Return loss is the fiber optic light gets reflected back at the connection point. The higher the return loss is means the lower reflection and the better the connection is. According to industry standard, Ultra PC polished fiber optic connectors return loss should be more than 50dB,Angled polished generally return loss is more than 60dB.PC type should be more than 40dB.




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