Spun Optical Fiber

  • Designed for Fiber Optic Current Sensors
  • Preserves Circular Polarization of Light
  • 1310 nm and 1550 nm Operating Wavelengths Available
  • Fibers with Ø80 µm or Ø125 µm Cladding

Bow-Tie Rotates Along the Axial Direction of the Fiber

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Polarization Window For Random Deployment
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Figure 2: Spun Fiber Coiled Around a Conductor for Current Sensing Applications

Faraday Effect in an Isolator Drawing
Figure 1: Pictoral Representation of the Faraday Effect

β ∝ V x N x I

V: The Verdet Constant (see Graphs tab), a property of the optical material, in rad/A.

N: The number of coils of fiber wrapped around the current conductor.

I: The current flowing through the conductor, in A.


  • Design Wavelength: 1310 or 1550 nm
  • Optimized for Current Sensing Applications
  • Output Polarization Insensitive to Thermal and Vibrational Noise
  • Applications:
    • Fiber Optic Current Sensors (FOCS)
    • Optical Current Transformers (OCT)

Spun Optical Fibers are specialty, highly birefringent optical fibers created by spinning a bow-tie-style, single mode, polarization-maintaining preform during the draw process as opposed to twisting it after drawing. They are spun so that the bow-tie rotates along the axial direction of the fiber (see image at top of page). We offer fiber for 1310 nm (Item #'s SHB1250G80 and SHB1250) as well as 1550 nm (Item # SHB1500) laser sources. Unlike traditional PM fibers, they are designed to preserve circular polarization, and the output polarization is insensitive to thermal and vibrational noise, as well as drift caused by stress-induced birefringence.

The properties of these high-birefringence, spun fibers make them ideal for high-sensitivity Fiber Optic Current Sensors (FOCS) [also known as Optical Current Transformers (OCT)]. In these applications, they can be used for both AC and DC current sensing. FOCS and OCT rely upon measuring the rotation of the polarization axis of light caused by the Faraday effect (see Figure 1). The Faraday effect causes a rotation in the polarization state through an applied magnetic field. For current sensing applications, the magnetic field is generated by a current carrying conductor. Since the magnetic field produced by the conductor is linearly proportional to the current, the polarization rotation is also proportional to the current. Sensitivity can be further increased by coiling the fiber around the conductor (see Figure 2). In this scenario, the rotation, β, is proportional to V x N x I, where V, N, and I are as defined to the right.

There are several advantages to using these spun fibers as a FOCS or OCT over traditional methods. The fiber, in which the polarization rotation is produced, is isolated from any voltage line or source. This eliminates any amount of electrical noise that could otherwise influence the measurement. The fibers are exceptionally sensitive to the external field, have a very fast response time, and are lightweight and compact. For more information on current sensing applications, please see the manufacturer’s technical and application notes.

To order these fibers as connectorized patch cables, please contact Tech Support.

Item #a Operating
MFDb NA Cut-Off Wavelength Attenuation Circular Beat
SHB1250G80 1310 nm 80 ± 1.5 µm 170 ± 10 µm 6.2 - 8.4 µm
@ 1310 nm
0.13 - 0.17 ≤1250 nm ≤5 dB/km
@ 1310 nm
63 - 125 mm
@ 1310 nm
SHB1250 1310 nm 125 ± 1 µm 245 ± 15 µm 6.2 - 8.4 µm
@ 1310 nm
0.13 - 0.17 ≤1250 nm ≤5 dB/km
@ 1310 nm
63 - 125 mm
@ 1310 nm
SHB1500 1550 nm 125 ± 1 µm 245 ± 15 µm 7.9 - 9.9 µm
@ 1550 nm
0.13 - 0.16 ≤1500 nm ≤3 dB/km
@ 1550 nm
72 - 144 mm
@ 1550 nm
  • See the Specs tab for a complete list of specifications.
  • Mode Field Diameter (MFD) is specified as a nominal value. It is the diameter at the 1/e2 power level in the near field. For more information, please see the MFD Definition tab above.
Operating Wavelength 1310 nm 1550 nm
Cut-Off Wavelength ≤1250 nm ≤1500 nm
Numerical Aperture 0.13 - 0.17 0.13 - 0.16
Mode Field Diameter 6.2 - 8.4 µm @ 1310 nm 7.9 - 9.9 µm @ 1550 nm
Attenuation ≤5 dB/km @ 1310 nm ≤3 dB/km @ 1550 nm
Circular Beat Length 63 - 125 mm @ 1310 nm 72 - 144 mm @ 1550 nm
Nominal Spin Pitcha 4.8 mm
Proof Test 100 kpsi (1%)
Cladding Diameter 80 ± 1.5 µm 125 ± 1 µm
Core-Cladding Concentricity 1.0 µm
Coating Diameter 170 ± 10 µm 245 ± 15 µm
Coating Type Dual Acrylate
  • Spin pitch refers to the regularity of the 360 degree rotations that are locked into the fiber. For example, a spin pitch of 5 mm means that a 360 degree rotation of the fiber will be locked into every 5 mm of finished fiber.

Spun Fiber Sensitivity
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This graph shows the calculated values for the total sensitivity for the spun fibers. The smaller Ø80 µm cladding fiber is sensitive at smaller coil diameters than the larger Ø125 µm cladding fiber. Thus, the Ø80 µm cladding fiber can be wound in tighter loops and provides a more accurate current measurement. For the definition of total sensitivity, please see page 3 of the manufacturer’s technical notes.

Polarization Window, Straight vs. Coiled
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The graph above shows the theoretical values of the Verdet constant for these spun fibers.

MFD Definition
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The left image shows the intensity profile of the beam propagated through the fiber overlaid on the fiber itself. The right image shows the standard intensity profile of the beam propagated through the fiber with the MFD and core diameter called out.

Definition of the Mode Field Diameter

The mode field diameter (MFD) is one measure of the beam width of light propagating in a single mode fiber. It is a function of wavelength, core radius, and the refractive indices of the core and cladding. While much of the light in an optical fiber is trapped within the fiber core, a small fraction propagates in the cladding. The light can be approximated as a Gaussian power distribution as shown to the right, where the MFD is the diameter at which the optical power is reduced to 1/e2 from its peak level.

Measurement of MFD
The measurement of MFD is accomplished by the Variable Aperture Method in the Far Field (VAMFF). An aperture is placed in the far field of the fiber output, and the intensity is measured. As successively smaller apertures are placed in the beam, the intensity levels are measured for each aperture; the data can then be plotted as power vs. the sine of the aperture half-angle (or the numerical aperture for an SM fiber).

The MFD is then determined using Petermann's second definition, which is a mathematical model that does not assume a specific shape of power distribution. The MFD in the near field can be determined from this far-field measurement using the Hankel Transform.

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.

Power Handling Limitations Imposed by Optical Fiber
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Undamaged Fiber End
Power Handling Limitations Imposed by Optical Fiber
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Damaged Fiber End

Damage at the Air / Glass Interface

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.

Estimated Optical Power Densities on Air / Glass Interfacea
Type Theoretical Damage Thresholdb Practical Safe Levelc
(Average Power)
~1 MW/cm2 ~250 kW/cm2
10 ns Pulsed
(Peak Power)
~5 GW/cm2 ~1 GW/cm2
  • All values are specified for unterminated (bare) silica fiber and apply for free space coupling into a clean fiber end face.
  • This is an estimated maximum power density that can be incident on a fiber end face without risking damage. Verification of the performance and reliability of fiber components in the system before operating at high power must be done by the user, as it is highly system dependent.
  • This is the estimated safe optical power density that can be incident on a fiber end face without damaging the fiber under most operating conditions.

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
The effective area for single mode (SM) fiber is defined by the mode field diameter (MFD), which is the cross-sectional area through which light propagates in the fiber; this area includes the fiber core and also a portion of the cladding. To achieve good efficiency when coupling into a single mode fiber, the diameter of the input beam must match the MFD of the fiber.

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 µm= 7.07 x 10-8 cm2

 SMF-28 Ultra Fiber: Area = Pi x (MFD/2)2 = Pi x (5.25 µm)2 = 86.6 µm= 8.66 x 10-7 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)
     7.07 x 10-8 cm2 x 250 kW/cm2 = 1.8 x 10-5 kW = 18 mW (Practical Safe Level)

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)
           8.66 x 10-7 cm2 x 250 kW/cm2 = 2.1 x 10-4 kW = 210 mW (Practical Safe Level)

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.

Intrinsic Damage Threshold

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. 

Bend Losses
Bend losses occur when a fiber is bent to a point where light traveling in the core is incident on the core/cladding interface at an angle higher than the critical angle, making total internal reflection impossible. Under these circumstances, light escapes the fiber, often in a localized area. The light escaping the fiber typically has a high power density, which burns the fiber coating as well as any surrounding furcation tubing.

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.

A second damage mechanism, called photodarkening or solarization, can occur in fibers used with ultraviolet or short-wavelength visible light, particularly those with germanium-doped cores. Fibers used at these wavelengths will experience increased attenuation over time. The mechanism that causes photodarkening is largely unknown, but several fiber designs have been developed to mitigate it. For example, fibers with a very low hydroxyl ion (OH) content have been found to resist photodarkening and using other dopants, such as fluorine, can also reduce photodarkening.

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.

Preparation and Handling of Optical Fibers

General Cleaning and Operation Guidelines
These general cleaning and operation guidelines are recommended for all fiber optic products. Users should still follow specific guidelines for an individual product as outlined in the support documentation or manual. Damage threshold calculations only apply when all appropriate cleaning and handling procedures are followed.

  1. All light sources should be turned off prior to installing or integrating optical fibers (terminated or bare). This ensures that focused beams of light are not incident on fragile parts of the connector or fiber, which can possibly cause damage.

  2. The power-handling capability of an optical fiber is directly linked to the quality of the fiber/connector end face. Always inspect the fiber end prior to connecting the fiber to an optical system. The fiber end face should be clean and clear of dirt and other contaminants that can cause scattering of coupled light. Bare fiber should be cleaved prior to use and users should inspect the fiber end to ensure a good quality cleave is achieved.

  3. If an optical fiber is to be spliced into the optical system, users should first verify that the splice is of good quality at a low optical power prior to high-power use. Poor splice quality may increase light scattering at the splice interface, which can be a source of fiber damage.

  4. Users should use low power when aligning the system and optimizing coupling; this minimizes exposure of other parts of the fiber (other than the core) to light. Damage from scattered light can occur if a high power beam is focused on the cladding, coating, or connector.

Tips for Using Fiber at Higher Optical Power
Optical fibers and fiber components should generally be operated within safe power level limits, but under ideal conditions (very good optical alignment and very clean optical end faces), the power handling of a fiber component may be increased. Users must verify the performance and stability of a fiber component within their system prior to increasing input or output power and follow all necessary safety and operation instructions. The tips below are useful suggestions when considering increasing optical power in an optical fiber or component.

  1. Splicing a fiber component into a system using a fiber splicer can increase power handling as it minimizes possibility of air/fiber interface damage. Users should follow all appropriate guidelines to prepare and make a high-quality fiber splice. Poor splices can lead to scattering or regions of highly localized heat at the splice interface that can damage the fiber.

  2. After connecting the fiber or component, the system should be tested and aligned using a light source at low power. The system power can be ramped up slowly to the desired output power while periodically verifying all components are properly aligned and that coupling efficiency is not changing with respect to optical launch power.

  3. Bend losses that result from sharply bending a fiber can cause light to leak from the fiber in the stressed area. When operating at high power, the localized heating that can occur when a large amount of light escapes a small localized area (the stressed region) can damage the fiber. Avoid disturbing or accidently bending fibers during operation to minimize bend losses.

  4. Users should always choose the appropriate optical fiber for a given application. For example, large-mode-area fibers are a good alternative to standard single mode fibers in high-power applications as they provide good beam quality with a larger MFD, decreasing the power density on the air/fiber interface.

  5. Step-index silica single mode fibers are normally not used for ultraviolet light or high-peak-power pulsed applications due to the high spatial power densities associated with these applications.

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SHB1250G80 Support Documentation
SHB1250G80Spun PM Optical Fiber, 1310 nm, Ø80 µm Cladding
Per Meter
Volume Pricing
SHB1250 Support Documentation
SHB1250Spun PM Optical Fiber, 1310 nm, Ø125 µm Cladding
Per Meter
Volume Pricing
SHB1500 Support Documentation
SHB1500Spun PM Optical Fiber, 1550 nm, Ø125 µm Cladding
Per Meter
Volume Pricing

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