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High-ER Polarization-Maintaining FC/APC Fiber Optic Patch Cables
1550 nm High-ER PM Patch Cable,
Connector Key Aligned to Slow Axis
Thorlabs High-Extinction-Ratio (ER) Polarization-Maintaining Fiber Optic Patch Cables are specially designed to have a high extinction ratio and low insertion loss, as compared to our standard PM patch cables (for specific differences between the standard and high-ER cables, please refer to the Comparison tab). Each cable is individually tested at the test wavelength listed on the Specs tab to ensure its extinction ratio and insertion loss at fiber-to-fiber junctions. A data sheet with a summary of the test results is shipped with each cable.
The ER of these polarization maintaining (PM) patch cables is specified as the ratio of the power propagating along the slow axis of the fiber to the power along the fast axis when a sufficiently linearly polarized input is aligned to the fiber's slow axis. Please note that the achievable extinction ratio in a system where these high-ER PM patch cables are implemented may be lower than the specified extinction ratio of the cable. The achievable ER will always be limited by the optical elements with the lowest ER in the system. These patch cables are assembled and tested for slow axis performance only. While the ER achievable with a fast axis launch should be similar, we do not test or guarantee performance for this usage case. For more information on how the extinction ratio was measured, please see the ER Measurement tab.
Each patch cable includes two protective caps that shield the ferrule ends from dust and other hazards. Additional CAPF Plastic Fiber Caps and CAPFM Metal Threaded Fiber Caps for FC/APC-terminated ends are also sold separately.
These cables are also available in other lengths and with different tubing than our stock offerings below. Please contact Tech Support for more information.
1550 nm PM Patch Cable Comparison
The graphs below depict sample data comparing Thorlabs' 1550 nm, High-Extinction-Ratio (ER) PM FC/APC Patch Cables and our standard 1550 nm PM FC/APC Patch Cables for 1 m and 2 m cable lengths. Our high-ER cables are specified to have an extinction ratio of 30 dB or higher at 1550 nm, whereas the standard cables are only guaranteed to have an extinction ratio of at least 23 dB. Additionally, the high-ER patch cables exhibit a lower insertion loss as compared to their standard counterparts (see the table to the right for details).
For more information about the methods used to measure the ER, please refer to the ER Measurement tab.
The extinction ratio (ER) of a polarization-maintaining (PM) fiber patch cable can be measured by the following two methods: the Cross-Polarizer Method (CPM) and the In-Line Measurement Method (ILM). While Thorlabs uses CPM to measure the ER of our 1550 nm high-ER patch cables, both methods are outlined below.
Please be aware that these methods require different optical sources - CPM requires an incoherent source while ILM requires a coherent source. The ER of the polarizers used in each measurement method should be at least one order of magnitude higher than the achievable ER of the PM cable under test to ensure the accuracy of measurement.
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Mating Between a Narrow-Key Mating Sleeve and Connector
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Mating Between a Wide-Key Mating Sleeve and Connector
FC/PC and FC/APC Patch Cable Key Alignment
FC/PC and FC/APC Patch Cables are equipped with either a 2.0 mm narrow or 2.2 mm wide alignment key that fits into a corresponding slot on a mated component. These keys and slots are essential to correctly align the cores of connected fiber patch cables and minimize the insertion loss of the connection.
As an example, Thorlabs designs and manufactures mating sleeves for FC/PC- and FC/APC-terminated patch cables to precise specifications that ensure good alignment when used correctly. To ensure the best alignment, the alignment key on the patch cable is inserted into the slot on the corresponding mating sleeve. Thorlabs offers mating sleeves with 2.2 mm wide-key slots or 2.0 mm narrow key slots.
Wide-Key-Slot Mating Sleeves
Narrow-Key-Slot Mating Sleeves
Narrow-Key-Slot Mating Sleeve and Narrow Key Connector
Once a narrow key connector is inserted into a narrow-key-slot mating sleeve, the connector will not rotate. We therefore recommend these mating sleeves for FC/PC and FC/APC connectors with narrow keys.
Wide-Key-Slot Mating Sleeve and Narrow Key Connector
When a narrow key connector is inserted into a wide-key-slot mating sleeve, the connector has room to rotate. For narrow key FC/PC connectors, this is acceptable, but for narrow key FC/APC connectors, significant coupling losses will result.
Laser-Induced Damage in Silica Optical Fibers
The following tutorial details damage mechanisms relevant to unterminated (bare) fiber, terminated optical fiber, and other fiber components from laser light sources. These mechanisms include damage that occurs at the air / glass interface (when free-space coupling or when using connectors) and in the optical fiber itself. A fiber component, such as a bare fiber, patch cable, or fused coupler, may have multiple potential avenues for damage (e.g., connectors, fiber end faces, and the device itself). The maximum power that a fiber can handle will always be limited by the lowest limit of any of these damage mechanisms.
While the damage threshold can be estimated using scaling relations and general rules, absolute damage thresholds in optical fibers are very application dependent and user specific. Users can use this guide to estimate a safe power level that minimizes the risk of damage. Following all appropriate preparation and handling guidelines, users should be able to operate a fiber component up to the specified maximum power level; if no maximum is specified for a component, users should abide by the "practical safe level" described below for safe operation of the component. Factors that can reduce power handling and cause damage to a fiber component include, but are not limited to, misalignment during fiber coupling, contamination of the fiber end face, or imperfections in the fiber itself. For further discussion about an optical fiber’s power handling abilities for a specific application, please contact Thorlabs’ Tech Support.
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Undamaged Fiber End
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Damaged Fiber End
There are several potential damage mechanisms that can occur at the air / glass interface. Light is incident on this interface when free-space coupling or when two fibers are mated using optical connectors. High-intensity light can damage the end face leading to reduced power handling and permanent damage to the fiber. For fibers terminated with optical connectors where the connectors are fixed to the fiber ends using epoxy, the heat generated by high-intensity light can burn the epoxy and leave residues on the fiber facet directly in the beam path.
Damage Mechanisms on the Bare Fiber End Face
Damage mechanisms on a fiber end face can be modeled similarly to bulk optics, and industry-standard damage thresholds for UV Fused Silica substrates can be applied to silica-based fiber. However, unlike bulk optics, the relevant surface areas and beam diameters involved at the air / glass interface of an optical fiber are very small, particularly for coupling into single mode (SM) fiber. therefore, for a given power density, the power incident on the fiber needs to be lower for a smaller beam diameter.
The table to the right lists two thresholds for optical power densities: a theoretical damage threshold and a "practical safe level". In general, the theoretical damage threshold represents the estimated maximum power density that can be incident on the fiber end face without risking damage with very good fiber end face and coupling conditions. The "practical safe level" power density represents minimal risk of fiber damage. Operating a fiber or component beyond the practical safe level is possible, but users must follow the appropriate handling instructions and verify performance at low powers prior to use.
Calculating the Effective Area for Single Mode and Multimode Fibers
As an example, SM400 single mode fiber has a mode field diameter (MFD) of ~Ø3 µm operating at 400 nm, while the MFD for SMF-28 Ultra single mode fiber operating at 1550 nm is Ø10.5 µm. The effective area for these fibers can be calculated as follows:
SM400 Fiber: Area = Pi x (MFD/2)2 = Pi x (1.5 µm)2 = 7.07 µm2 = 7.07 x 10-8 cm2
To estimate the power level that a fiber facet can handle, the power density is multiplied by the effective area. Please note that this calculation assumes a uniform intensity profile, but most laser beams exhibit a Gaussian-like shape within single mode fiber, resulting in a higher power density at the center of the beam compared to the edges. Therefore, these calculations will slightly overestimate the power corresponding to the damage threshold or the practical safe level. Using the estimated power densities assuming a CW light source, we can determine the corresponding power levels as:
SM400 Fiber: 7.07 x 10-8 cm2 x 1 MW/cm2 = 7.1 x 10-8 MW = 71 mW (Theoretical Damage Threshold)
SMF-28 Ultra Fiber: 8.66 x 10-7 cm2 x 1 MW/cm2 = 8.7 x 10-7 MW = 870 mW (Theoretical Damage Threshold)
The effective area of a multimode (MM) fiber is defined by the core diameter, which is typically far larger than the MFD of an SM fiber. For optimal coupling, Thorlabs recommends focusing a beam to a spot roughly 70 - 80% of the core diameter. The larger effective area of MM fibers lowers the power density on the fiber end face, allowing higher optical powers (typically on the order of kilowatts) to be coupled into multimode fiber without damage.
Damage Mechanisms Related to Ferrule / Connector Termination
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Plot showing approximate input power that can be incident on a single mode silica optical fiber with a termination. Each line shows the estimated power level due to a specific damage mechanism. The maximum power handling is limited by the lowest power level from all relevant damage mechanisms (indicated by a solid line).
Fibers terminated with optical connectors have additional power handling considerations. Fiber is typically terminated using epoxy to bond the fiber to a ceramic or steel ferrule. When light is coupled into the fiber through a connector, light that does not enter the core and propagate down the fiber is scattered into the outer layers of the fiber, into the ferrule, and the epoxy used to hold the fiber in the ferrule. If the light is intense enough, it can burn the epoxy, causing it to vaporize and deposit a residue on the face of the connector. This results in localized absorption sites on the fiber end face that reduce coupling efficiency and increase scattering, causing further damage.
For several reasons, epoxy-related damage is dependent on the wavelength. In general, light scatters more strongly at short wavelengths than at longer wavelengths. Misalignment when coupling is also more likely due to the small MFD of short-wavelength SM fiber that also produces more scattered light.
To minimize the risk of burning the epoxy, fiber connectors can be constructed to have an epoxy-free air gap between the optical fiber and ferrule near the fiber end face. Our high-power multimode fiber patch cables use connectors with this design feature.
Determining Power Handling with Multiple Damage Mechanisms
When fiber cables or components have multiple avenues for damage (e.g., fiber patch cables), the maximum power handling is always limited by the lowest damage threshold that is relevant to the fiber component. In general, this represents the highest input power that can be incident on the patch cable end face and not the coupled output power.
As an illustrative example, the graph to the right shows an estimate of the power handling limitations of a single mode fiber patch cable due to damage to the fiber end face and damage via an optical connector. The total input power handling of a terminated fiber at a given wavelength is limited by the lower of the two limitations at any given wavelength (indicated by the solid lines). A single mode fiber operating at around 488 nm is primarily limited by damage to the fiber end face (blue solid line), but fibers operating at 1550 nm are limited by damage to the optical connector (red solid line).
In the case of a multimode fiber, the effective mode area is defined by the core diameter, which is larger than the effective mode area for SM fiber. This results in a lower power density on the fiber end face and allows higher optical powers (on the order of kilowatts) to be coupled into the fiber without damage (not shown in graph). However, the damage limit of the ferrule / connector termination remains unchanged and as a result, the maximum power handling for a multimode fiber is limited by the ferrule and connector termination.
Please note that these are rough estimates of power levels where damage is very unlikely with proper handling and alignment procedures. It is worth noting that optical fibers are frequently used at power levels above those described here. However, these applications typically require expert users and testing at lower powers first to minimize risk of damage. Even still, optical fiber components should be considered a consumable lab supply if used at high power levels.
In addition to damage mechanisms at the air / glass interface, optical fibers also display power handling limitations due to damage mechanisms within the optical fiber itself. These limitations will affect all fiber components as they are intrinsic to the fiber itself. Two categories of damage within the fiber are damage from bend losses and damage from photodarkening.
A special category of optical fiber, called double-clad fiber, can reduce the risk of bend-loss damage by allowing the fiber’s cladding (2nd layer) to also function as a waveguide in addition to the core. By making the critical angle of the cladding/coating interface higher than the critical angle of the core/clad interface, light that escapes the core is loosely confined within the cladding. It will then leak out over a distance of centimeters or meters instead of at one localized spot within the fiber, minimizing the risk of damage. Thorlabs manufactures and sells 0.22 NA double-clad multimode fiber, which boasts very high, megawatt range power handling.
Even with the above strategies in place, all fibers eventually experience photodarkening when used with UV or short-wavelength light, and thus, fibers used at these wavelengths should be considered consumables.
General Cleaning and Operation Guidelines
Tips for Using Fiber at Higher Optical Power