What are optical fiber couplers?

A fiber optic coupler can be defined as an optical component used with one or more input fibers and several output fibers in fiber optic systems. A coupler essentially puts two or more cores of fibers together to connect. The simple coupler is the fused fiber 2x2 coupler.

Couplers are used as multiplexers that are resistant to certain wavelengths. A fiber output depends on the wavelength of light and the frequency of polarization. The fiber refractive index also plays a significant role in the performance. Let’s checkout how do optic couplers work to understand this better.

How do fiber optic couplers work?

Either fiber optic couplers separate optical signals into multiple paths or combine multiple signals in one direction. Optical signals are more complicated than electrical signals, making it more difficult to design optical couplers than their electrical copy. Unlike electrical currents, the optical signal consists of a stream of signal carriers, in this case photons.

The optical signal, however, does not stream to the ground through the receiver. Alternatively, a sensor absorbs the signal stream at the transmitter. Many receivers, connected in a row, would not receive a signal after the first receiver absorbs the whole signal.

Multiple parallel optical output ports therefore need to split the signal between the ports, increasing their magnitude. A coupler is defined by the number of input and output ports expressed as a N x M configuration.  The letter N is the number of input fibers, and the number of output fibers is expressed by M. In any configuration, fused couplers can be made, but they typically use multiples of two (2x 2, 4x 4, 8x 8, etc.).

We always use digital couplers: like a telephone coupler that allows you to connect a telephone and a fax machine to the same telephone line. Or a CATV coupler that allows you to connect multiple TV sets from Comcast to a single cable. Essentially, you can purchase these couplers online at Connect Zone. Optical couplers have the same features as digital couplers: they distribute the signal to different (devices) points.

Fiber optic couplers are of two kinds – active and passive. The distinction between active and passive couplers is that without optical-to-electrical conversion, a passive coupler redistributes the optical signal. Active couplers are electronic devices that electrically separate and blend the signal and use input and output fiber optic detectors and sources.

Electronic couplers are easy to make as long as you have physical contact between conductors, electrical current flows. But optical signal is a completely different field. The tiny optical fiber cores need to be precisely spaced (9um for single mode and 50um or 62.5um for multimode fibers), so when you break the signal, there will not be a huge power loss.

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