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Fiber Optic Cleaning Essentials

Fiber Optic Cleaning – Vital for Installation Success

Reliable and trouble free optical connections are key to any successful installation. Cleaning is extremely important for the long-term reliability of any fiber link, and, happily, cleaning is very easy to do.

Fiber optic components are very small, so any contamination can easily interrupt signals. The outer diameter of a standard strand of optical fiber is 250 microns (µm), or approximately 0.01 inches/0.25 millimeters. That 250 µm measurement, however, does not correspond to the actual light-carrying part of the fiber, the fiber core. In a multimode fiber, the core is only 50 µm in diameter. A single mode fiber has an even smaller core: only 9 µm. (Read more about the difference between single mode and multimode fibers.)

For reference, human hair is anywhere between 17-180 µm in diameter, with an average of 50 – 75 µm.

The actual light-carrying part of an optical fiber is minuscule. As a result, any contaminate covering the end-face of your connectors can tremendously impact signal transmission. The World Health Organization defines dust particles as ranging from 1 to 100 µm in diameter. A few specks of dust could completely interrupt your signals, negate your test results, and in general cause major headaches.

Even a brand new connector needs to be cleaned prior to insertion. The “dust cap” is only there to keep the end from getting scratched prior to being cleaned. In the video below, you can see what happens with one touch of fingertip to a connector end face. (The example in the footage is multimode fiber.) Dirt, skin oils, and particulate are present over the entire connector end face.

The solution? Clean your fiber connectors!


(Click to view)

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