Fiber Alignment

A main source of extrinsic coupling loss in fiber-to-fiber connections is poor fiber alignment . The three basic coupling errors that occur during fiber alignment are fiber separation (longitudinal misalignment), lateral misalignment, and angular misalignment. Most alignment errors are the result of mechanical imperfections introduced by fiber jointing techniques. However, alignment errors do result from installers not following proper connection procedures.

With fiber separation, a small gap remains between fiber-end faces after completing the fiber connection. The picture below illustrates this separation of the fiber-end faces.


Lateral, or axial, misalignment occurs when the axes of the two fibers are offset in a perpendicular direction. The picture below shows this perpendicular offset of the axes of two connecting fibers.


Angular misalignment occurs when the axes of two connected fibers are no longer parallel. The axes of each fiber intersect at some angle (Q). The next picture below illustrates the angular misalignment between the core axes.


Coupling loss caused by lateral and angular misalignment typically is greater than the loss caused by fiber separation. Loss, caused by fiber separation, is less critical because of the relative ease in limiting the distance of fiber separation. However, in some cases, fiber optic connectors prevent fibers from actual contact. These fiber optic connectors separate the fibers by a small gap. This gap eliminates damage to fiber-end faces during connection. For connectors with an air gap, the use of index matching gel reduces the coupling loss.

Most newer connectors are designed so that the connector ferrule end faces contact when the connector is mated. The connector can be assembled onto the fiber so that the fibers also contact whenmated. However, they also can be assembled so that the fibers do not. Whether or not the fibers contact is determined by whether the fiber sticks out slightly from the ferrule or is recessed inside the ferrule. The fiber position can be controlled by the connector polishing technique. The physical contact (PC) polishtechnique was developed for most connectors so that the fibers would touch when mated. In these types of connectors, index gel is not needed to reduce reflections.

While index matching gel reduces coupling loss from fiber separation, it does not affect loss in lateral misalignment. Additionally, index matching gel usually increases the fiber's coupling loss sensitivity to angular misalignment. Although angular misalignment involves fiber separation, index matching gel reduces the angle at which light is launched from the source fiber. Index matching gel causes less light to be coupled into the receiving fiber. To reduce coupling loss from angularmisalignment, the angle should be less than 1ยบ.

Coupling losses due to fiber alignment depend on fiber type, core diameter, and the distribution of optical power among propagating modes. Fibers with large NAs reduce loss from angular misalignment and increase loss from fiber separation. Single mode fibers are more sensitive to alignment errors thanmultimode fibers because of their small core size. However, alignment errors in multimode fiber connections may disturb the distribution of optical power in the propagating modes, increasing coupling loss.

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