Cleanliness of fiber optic connections is critical to the performance of optical communication networks. Contamination on a connector end face, even if only at the microscopic level, can create severe problems.
Traditional single-mode fiber optic core diameters are approximately nine microns (a human hair is approximately 50 microns). Contamination that blocks the fiber core generates strong back reflections (return loss) and may impact attenuation (insertion loss).
Loose contamination on the connector end-face may move during de-mating or may prevent the physical glass-to-glass contact required for proper signal transmission. Rigid contamination trapped between connector end faces may permanently damage the fiber core(s).
Dry contaminates are relatively simple to remove compared to the oils and films that naturally occur with human contact, vapor condensation and solvent evaporation. Let’s review several ways on cleaning your fiber connectors.
Cleaning Single Fiber Connectors (LC/SC/ST) and Adapters
For dry cleaning, use a reel-based cassette cleaner with medium pressure and wipe the connector end-face against a dry cleaning cloth in one direction or use a ‘stick cleaner’ with similar effect. For angled physical contact (APC) polished connectors, ensure that the entire end-face surface mates with the cleaning cloth. Dry cleaning will generally remove airborne contamination and should be attempted first. Make sure you inspect the connector’s end-face for contamination after cleaning.
Cleaning Multi-Fiber Array Connectors (MPO) and Adapter
There are special cleaners available that can be used for the pinned and the unpinned (PC and APC polished) MPO connectors. For APC MPO connectors, ensure that the entire end-face surface mates with the cleaning cloth. Another method is to use a reel-based MPO In-bulkhead cleaner specially designed for cleaning both the pinned and the unpinned (PC and APC polished) MPO connectors.
To prevent scratching the end-face, always clean the MPO connectors with a cleaning motion from top to bottom perpendicular to the fiber array. Never clean the MPO connector by rubbing across it from side to side (parallel to fiber array).
For inspection, cleaning and maintenance, you might want to learn more about fiber optic infrastructure. The CommScope Infrastructure Academy offers you several fiber optic training courses, suited to anyone working with optical fiber at any level. Click here to learn more.