Proper selection of fiber optic cables and connectors for specific uses is becoming more and more important as fiber optic systems become the transmission medium for communications and aircraft applications, and even antenna links. Choices must be made in selecting fiber optic cables and connectors for high-reliability applications. This article provides the knowledge for how to make appropriate selections of fiber optic cable and connector when designing a fiber optic system.
Fiber Optic Cable Selection
To select a fiber optic cable, you have to make choices of both the fiber selection and the cable construction selection.
The three major fiber parameters used in selecting the proper fiber for an application are bandwidth, attenuation and core diameter.
Bandwidth: The bandwidth at a specified wavelength represents the highest sinusoidal light modulation frequency that can be transmitted through a length of fiber with an optical signal power loss equal to 50 percent of the zero modulation frequency component. The bandwidth is expressed in megahertz over a kilometer length (MHz/km).
Attenuation: The optical attenuation denotes the amount of optical power lost due to absorption and scattering of optical radiation at a specified wavelength in a length of fiber. It is expressed as an attenuation in decibels of optical power per kilometer (dB/km). The attenuation is determined by launching a narrow spectral band of light into the full length of fiber and measuring the transmitted intensity.
Core Diameter: The fiber core is the central region of an optical fiber whose refractive index is higher than that of the fiber cladding. Various core diameters are available to permit the most efficient coupling of light from commercially available light sources, such as laser diodes. There are two basic fiber types, single-mode and multimode. Single-mode fiber has a core diameter of 8 to 10 microns and is normally used for long distance requirements and high-bandwidth applications. Multimode fiber has a core diameter of 50 or 62.5 microns and is usually used in buildings. The picture below shows single-mode and multimode fiber with different core diameters.
Cable Construction Selection
Another important consideration when specifying optical fiber cable is the cable construction. There are three main types of cable configurations: buffered fiber cable, simplex cable and multichannel cable.
Buffered Fiber Cable: There are two kinds of buffered fiber. The first is a loose buffer tube construction where the fiber is contained in a water-blocked polymer tube that has an inner diameter considerably larger than the fiber itself. The loose buffer tube construction offers lower cable attenuation from a given fiber, and a high level of isolation from external forces. Loose buffer cables are typically used in outdoor applications and can accommodate the changes in external conditions. The second is a tight buffer tube design. A thick buffer coating is placed directly on the fiber. The tight buffer construction permits smaller, lighter weight designs and generally yields a more flexible cable. A comparison of these two cable constructions is shown below.
Simplex Cable: A simplex fiber optic cable has only one tight buffered optical fiber inside the cable jackets. Simplex fiber optic cables are typically categorized as interconnect cables and are used to make interconnections in front of the patch panel. They are designed for production termination where consistency and uniformity are vital for fast and efficient operation.
Multichannel Cable: Building multiple fibers into one cable creates a multichannel cable. This type of cable is usually built with either a central or external strength member and fiber bundled around or within the strength member. An external jacket is used to keep the cable together.