Optical Fiber Coatings

Fiber optics have begun revolutionizing the way in which we transfer data, their speeds and reliability far surpassing conventional copper wiring. As optical fibers feature an assembly of glass fibers that transmit data in the form of light, it is important that ample coating is implemented for the protection of the component and for its performance. To properly coat an optical fiber, one must first understand the purpose of coatings, common materials, dimensions, and more.

Polymer is a common optical fiber coating, typically accounting for ¾ of the dimensional volume of the final product. While environmental and mechanical requirements are met with the implementation of the coating, optical performance is also enhanced in many ways. Without the presence of an optical fiber coating, the core and cladding glass would be exposed to air, moisture, abrasion, chemicals, bends, and much more. With regular exposure to stressors, the optical fiber may lose performance over time, eventually leading to the overall failure of the component.  Although fiber coatings are never perfect and damage may still ensue over time, such protection is crucial for greatly increasing service lives and reliability.

For most communication fibers, the cladding diameter will be around 125 µm, and the addition of a UV-cured acrylate polymer coating will further increase the overall diameter of the component to 250 µm. Many coatings are implemented in two separate layers, the inner layer being softer while the outer layer is harder. For specialty fibers, meanwhile, fiber sizes, diameters, and materials will vary much more to accommodate different needs. Nevertheless, some specialty fibers will take advantage of the acrylate coatings found on communication fibers. If the environment that the optical fiber will operate in features increased stressors, then the coating will be designed to ensure resistance and strength. As communication fibers encompass the majority of optical fiber manufacturing, UV-cured acrylates are the most widely used coating type.

When choosing between optical fibers and coatings, there are a few factors that are important to consider. Modulus, also referred to as “E”, is the hardness of a coating. Measured in MPa, the primary coatings of a fiber may be under 10 MPa, while secondary coatings can exceed 700 MPa. The index of refraction is also crucial as such values refer to the speed in which light may pass through a coating. Generally, the refractive index of many telecom coatings ranges between 1.47 and 1.55. Meanwhile, low index coatings may be relied on for specialty fibers. Beyond such values, one should also consider temperature ranges, viscosity, adhesion, stripability, microbending performance, and abrasion resistance. Additionally, other factors may be important based on whether or not a coating is a specialty type, and one should pay attention when procuring rare-earth-doped fibers for fiber laser applications, fibers for power delivery, polarization-maintaining fibers, and more.

While there are no perfect coatings for every optical fiber, taking the time to find the best fit will ensure the highest possible performance and service lives for reliability. ASAP Purchasing is a website owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, and we are your strategic sourcing partner for all your optical fiber coating needs. Take the time to explore our vast set of offerings at your leisure and find over 2 billion new, used, obsolete, and hard-to-find items ready for purchase at any time. To save our customers time and money, we leverage our purchasing power and market expertise. Furthermore, we expedite shipping times for domestic and international orders alike with the use of our supply chain network. If you find particular items on our database that you wish to procure, utilize our RFQ service to quickly request quotes for your comparisons. If you have any questions or concerns regarding our offered services, we invite you to reach out to one our representatives by phone or email as we would be more than happy to assist you however needed!

January 12, 2023
December 7, 2022

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