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Prof. R.K. Shevgaonkar
Department of Electrical Engineering
Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay

Lecture: 11
Analysis of Signal Distortion in Optical Fiber

Fiber Optics, Prof. R.K. Shevgaonkar, Dept. of Electrical Engineering, IIT Bombay

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In order to minimize this loss. the fibers have to cut in proper way and the surface of the fiber tip has to be reasonable flattened. optical fibers too. To ensure an accurate and reliable system. Prof. To achieve such goals. we shall look into various practical aspects and measurements that help us to choose the appropriate optical fiber for the appropriate purpose. These resultant irregularities are then smoothened by polishing the tip of the fiber. Shevgaonkar. The very basic operation to be performed on an optical fiber is to connect it to a standard connector. To do so. Now tension is applied on to the fiber on either side of the fiber so as to pull it apart. The optical fiber that is to be cleaved is held over a curved wedge and a gentle cut is made on the fiber with a scoring blade as shown in the figure. the fiber has to be appropriately cut and prepared before it can be coupled to a connector.K. This process of making a fiber tip ready for connection is called as “end-preparation”. must be tested and verified before use. be it hardware or software. even after this process. there would be scattering of light at the tip of the fiber and the light would not form a beam. A perfectly flat type cut is also shown. The process of cutting a fiber is called fiber cleaving. In this process.1: Few types of fiber tips As a result of such imperfections.2 below. Dept. In this section. durability and a sense of aesthetic appeal. A few such imperfections that may occur at the tip of the fiber due to adoption of improper cutting method are shown in the figure below.The main function of a system designer is to design a system that provides the user with multiple benefits such as authenticity. The arrangement required for proper cleaving of an optical fiber is shown in the figure 11. accuracy. of Electrical Engineering. Figure 11. loss of signal power occurs when we couple the fiber to a connector or join to fibers to couple light energy from one to the other. reliability. However. Fiber Optics. After cutting the fiber. minor irregularities may remain due to system and handling errors. the cut develops deeper into the fiber thereby forming a considerably flat surface on the tip of the optical fiber. if the surface of the tip of the fiber is not flat. R. the designer has to ensure the use of superior quality constituents. An optical fiber system is no exception to this. IIT Bombay Page 2 .

IIT Bombay Page 3 . The surface of the tip of the optical fiber is now reasonable made flat and is ready to be coupled to either a connector or another similarly prepared optical fiber to make a joint. Once the fibers get aligned.2: Fiber Cleaving Polishing of the optical fiber may done by gently rubbing the tip of the optical fiber on a specially available fiber-polishing card which is more like a common day sandpaper but is smother than it. the next operation done on the fiber is the splicing process. Shevgaonkar.K. Temporary splices are very rarely necessary because it is accompanied by a large loss figure and as such we mostly use permanent splicing techniques to join two fibers. Once an optical fiber is cleaved. There is also one another type of Fiber Optics.Figure 11. There are various types of splices based on the type of application for which the splice is required for. The main type of permanent splicing technique is the fusion splicing technique. Prof. Broadly. This type of joint is permanent and also has lower loss figure than a temporary joint and hence is much preferred. a splice may be either temporary or a permanent splice. of Electrical Engineering.3: Fusion Splicing Technique In fusion splicing technique. we use the temporary splicing where the fibers may be either temporarily connected through some connectors or they may be inserted into some rubber tube from the either sides which holds them aligned together temporarily. R.3 above. we place two end prepared optical fibers clamped opposite to each other almost perfectly aligned as shown in the figure 11. The electric discharge causes the glass of the two fibers near the ends to melt momentarily and the inward push then causes these two molten ends to get fused into each other. If the joint has to be connected and disconnected frequently. an electric discharge is passed through the small gap between the ends and at the same time a gentle inward push is applied onto the fibers. Figure 11. Dept.

5 below.K. If we plot the different types of loss (in dB) curves corresponding to the different types of misalignments.5: Comparison of Misalignment loses. Figure 11. IIT Bombay Page 4 .permanent joint known as the UV cured type of joint. Shevgaonkar. Hence proper orientation of the two fiber ends before forming a joint is very necessary to ensure a loss-less coupling of light from one fiber to another. Fiber Optics. R. with respect to the normalized (with respect to fiber core radius „a‟) separation between the two tips. we get a curve as shown in the figure 11. One common thread that runs through all these mechanical misalignments is that all of them lead to a loss of light energy at the misalignment. Figure 11. Dept. These misalignments are shown below. The third type is the angular misalignment where the two fiber axes are not parallel to each other as shown in the above figure.4: Mechanical Misalignment of optical fibers in fiber joints The fibers may get misaligned laterally. The second common type of misalignment is the longitudinal type of misalignment in which there remains a gap between the two fiber ends in the final joint. of Electrical Engineering. Prof. When two optical fiber ends are brought close to each other to form a joint (temporary or permanent) there always remains a possibility of mechanical errors which causes the fibers to get misaligned. wherein the axes of the two fibers get misaligned as shown in the above figure. solidifies thereby forming a joint between the fibers. In this process the two ends are held close to each other in a liquid which when exposed to UV rays.

Then by measuring the distance between this screen and the end of the optical fiber (x).1dB. Shevgaonkar.5-1dB only. Then it adjusts the parameters in 6 degrees of freedom and an electric arc is passed when maximum optical power is found to couple from one fiber to the other. Dept. The loss in an optical fiber is composed of two components.A. we make the following calculations: ( ⁄ ) √ Fiber Optics. To minimize this value further. (Splicing machines shall be practically demonstrated in later sections. Let us first look into a very simple experiment to determine the numerical aperture (N. So in practical systems.K. Figure 11. we launch light into an optical fiber and measure the diameter (D) of the spot produced on a screen on the output side as shown in the above figure. the intrinsic characteristics of the fiber and the second.A. R. special splicing machines are available which automatically align the two optical fiber ends with high precision by launching light from one fiber to the other. the environment in which the fiber is used. The most important parameter of all others is the fiber loss. we have to make measurements of fiber loss in both the situations. These machines further lower the loss to about 0. IIT Bombay (11.2) Page 5 .6 below.) The next operation which we perform on an optical fiber to test its suitability for the application is the measurement of the different fiber parameters.) of an optical fiber. these loses are minimized by performing proper alignment of the optical fibers in all respects at every splice point.. The diagrammatical representation of this experiment is shown in the figure 11. Determination of numerical aperture involves launching of light into an optical fiber and producing a spot on the other side of the fiber. the sine of the maximum possible launching angle of the optical fiber (reader is assumed to be clear about N. Numerical Aperture of an optical fiber is a numerical value which is actually. of Electrical Engineering.05-0. from the first transcript).first.In any good practical systems. By obtaining the values of these parameters we try to choose the appropriate fiber as per requirement.1) (11. So to get a correct estimate of the loss in an optical fiber. To measure N.A.6: Experiment to measure Numerical Aperture of an optical fiber. Prof. typical splice loss ranges from 0.

The first destructive technique is named as the cut-back technique. The experimental set-up in the figure 11.intrinsic and environmental. That Fiber Optics. As already mentioned. Shevgaonkar. R.7: Cutback Technique In this technique. the intrinsic loss figure has to be estimated before the optical fiber is put to any application. Mode field diameter is a more appropriate characteristic parameter for a practical single mode optical fiber and hence. Dept. Let us first understand the destructive technique of optical fiber loss measurement.K. The mode stripper acts as a filter to the unwanted modes generated by the source and allows only those modes to pass which are well confined within the core. one can carry out the measurement at certain wavelength and then scale it approximately to the desired wavelength. we have two distinct techniques. the intrinsic loss in the fiber can be measured even after the fiber is connected in any system and also during its operating condition. Special equipment is available for this purpose of real time loss measurement.Here θmax is the maximum launching angle of light into the optical fiber. The ratio of the actual amount of optical energy launched into the optical fiber to the amount of optical energy detected gives the attenuation inside the optical fiber. get an estimate of the launching efficiency of the optical fiber. IIT Bombay Page 6 . However. Figure 11. an optical source launches light energy into a known length of optical fiber and the output optical energy is detected using an optical detector. is very important to be determined. the loss in an optical fiber is comprised of two components. This plot (as already discussed) can be approximated by a Gaussian distribution and the mode field diameter can be calculated from this plot. The set-up of this technique is shown in the figure below. Prof. Environmental loss refers to the parameters which contribute to the loss in an optical fiber when the fiber is used in a particular system.6 can also be used to determine the mode field diameter of a single mode optical fiber in which the screen has to be replaced by an optical intensity sensor which would plot the variation of optical intensity in the radial direction. In the destructive technique.destructive technique and the non-destructive technique. In the non-destructive technique. of Electrical Engineering. So by the above experiment we can determine the numerical aperture of the optical fiber and hence. however. Since the mode field diameter is a wavelength dependent quantity. For calculating loss. the intrinsic loss is measured before the fiber is put to use in any system.

K. OTDR is analogous to RADAR in operation. So the OTDR may be referred to as optical RADAR due to this analogy. Shevgaonkar. it is not so. after measuring the Pout for the actual length of the fiber.8: Optical Time Domain Reflectometer (OTDR) Fiber Optics. it cannot be used after the fiber is installed into a system and has to be used before the optical fiber is used for any application. So. of Electrical Engineering. even if we know the value of optical energy produced by the source. A very powerful technique which can be employed to estimate the loss in an optical fiber both before and after installing an optical fiber into a system is the one that uses Optical Time Domain Reflectometer (OTDR).3). theoretically. Since this method involves cutting of the original fiber. Dept. considered as the P in in the original fiber and this gives a reasonably accurate value of P in. So. in practice. the value of P in cannot be accurately measured due to large scattering losses at the tip of the optical fiber at the launching point. But this method has a reasonable amount of accuracy in the measured value of attenuation constant. R. we transmit a narrow radio-frequency pulse into space and estimate the time delay and amplitude of the reflected signal (if any) of the pulse which helps us to ascertain the distance and size of the object. then: ( ) ( ) (11. an intuitive strategy has been devised in which. in practical situations. the actual amount of light energy that enters the optical fiber is an uncertain parameter due to the coupling losses. The main parts of Figure however. This is because. looks to be simple enough. yet.3) Though the above method. Now with the help of equation (11. the P out of the cut-section of the optical fiber may be. the attenuation loss is negligible small. hence. the attenuation constant can be determined for the actual fiber. for an optical fiber of length „L‟ (in kilometre). In a RADAR. For a very small length of an optical fiber. if Pin and Pout is the input and output optical power respectively of the optical fiber. To eradicate this difficulty. Prof. a very small length of the same optical fiber is cut and the Pout for this cut section is measure. IIT Bombay Page 7 .

Shevgaonkar. the micro-bending reflections. The reason for this decrease is the gradual attenuation to the light pulse signal that occurs inside the optical fiber as the light travels through the optical fiber. Therefore. Dept.4) A typical output waveform for a narrow input pulse is shown below in the figure 11. reflections at splice points. The slope of this curve at any point gives the attenuation constant of the optical fiber at that point.9: Figure 11. The maximum time spread of the output waveform would correspond to the maximum return time of a reflection on the fiber which corresponds to the light reflected from the other end of the fiber. the maximum return time „tmax‟ is given by ⁄ (11. the graph is almost monotonically decreasing in nature. Prof. The laser source emits light of certain wavelength which then passes through a beam splitter and enters the optical fiber under test.8. IIT Bombay Page 8 . etc. at different points along the fiber. of Electrical Engineering. The abrupt peaks or spikes in the OTDR trace of figure 11. Also to be noted is the observation that. The other end of the optical fiber is not of importance as yet. this is the reason that the near end reflections have higher optical power amplitudes as compared to the reflections from the far end. for an optical fiber of length „L‟ and having an effective refractive index of „neff‟.K. Basically. the oscilloscope output is a time spread waveform of the very narrow input OTDR are shown in the figure 11. Thus.9: Output waveform of an OTDR (OTDR Trace) It is clear from the above figure that the different causes of multiple reflections along the optical fiber may be the micro-centres that cause Rayleigh scattering. In fact. The reflected light from the optical fiber returns and enters the beam splitter and is collected by the photo-detector and amplifier and this amplified output is then displayed on an oscilloscope. the slope is actually twice the attenuation constant. So. bending. for a very narrow pulse of launched light there would be multiple reflections arriving at different instants in time due to multiple defects such as scattering. etc.9 are the points at which there are imperfections in the optical fiber Fiber Optics. since the light is doubly attenuated in reaching the detector-amplifier set-up. R.

if the separation between the two defects is less than the minimum separation required. we transmit a series of periodic narrow high power pulses and the reflections from these periodic pulses help to generate a trace. Shevgaonkar. this technique is used to test optical fibers of lengths upto 50 to 60Km. That is. in practical systems.5) The pulse repetition frequency is a function of the test length of the optical fiber. an OTDR is connected periodically to the optical fiber under use and the OTDR trace is observed. This separation may be expressed either in time domain or in spatial domain. this method can also be employed after the optical fiber is commissioned into the system. signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) etc. Although a single narrow light pulse is enough to get an OTDR trace. In fact. they would no longer be detected as two separate pulses. The position of the defects in the optical fiber is then found out from this trace and appropriate corrective measures are taken. In practice. there would be a reflection of light which is indicated by the spike at tmax. Dept. of Electrical Engineering. connectors. thus. Typically. splices etc. come into picture and so. reveals a number of facts about the optical fiber such as its attenuation constant at a particular point.K. OTDR is an extremely powerful technique to measure the losses in an optical fiber. a train of periodic narrow high power pulses are launched into an optical fiber under test and a trace is obtained on the OTDR which helps us not only to make measurements of the loss but also to detect the position of the loss. In practical situations. The second important quantity to be emphasized upon is the resolution of the OTDR. Prof. In time domain. many other parameters such as noise. At the far end of the fiber too. If the pulses arrive within this delay interval. Since the OTDR requires the access to only the fiber input.leading to a loss in optical energy. The OTDR trace. Crudely. It also is useful in monitoring the status of an optical fiber while in operation as well as in un-operating conditions. the resolution refers to the minimum time delay between the arrivals of the two reflected signals from the two successive defects. The period of the pulses in an OTDR is known as the pulse repetition frequency (PRF) and is given by: ⁄ (11. the half power width of the pulse should be as narrow Fiber Optics. then the two defects would not be detected separately but would be recognized as a single defect. Therefore. This time delay in the arrivals of the two pulses may be defined to be approximately equal to the half-power time width of the input pulse („thalf‟). This is done by averaging the reflected signal power at regular intervals thereby increasing the SNR and a trace can be statistically plotted out of these average values. So. IIT Bombay Page 9 . R. positions of discontinuities or imperfections. resolution refers to the minimum separation required between two successive defects on the optical fiber so that they can be distinctly detected on the trace. this notion is true only in theory. in practical OTDRs. a single optical pulse does not suffice to get a trace on an OTDR.

If the optical fiber under test has a dispersion of „D‟ with a source spectral width of „σλ‟ and a length of travel „L‟. a convolution of the Gaussian input pulse and Gaussian pulse broadening function and so.c/neff). hence. would also be Gaussian in nature with a width of {ti2+(D σλL)2}1/2. The corresponding spatial resolution. R. increases and the resolution gets poorer. hence. IIT Bombay Page 10 . hence. a very powerful technique because it can be used even after an optical fiber is put to operation. the second term under the radical sign becomes negligibly small and the output pulse width is dominated by the input pulse width. Thus when „L‟ is small. The next parameter that a designer is interested before selecting a particular optical fiber for an application is the dispersion of the optical fiber. Shevgaonkar. of Electrical Engineering. The experimental arrangement of the determination of the dispersion of the optical fiber is shown in the figure 11. The input pulse of light is also plotted on the display of the oscilloscope in order to measure the amount of broadening of the pulse inside the optical fiber under Fiber Optics.K. Dept. However. If the input light pulse be Gaussian with a half-power time width of „ti‟. this expression for resolution is true only towards the near end of the optical fiber. The output pulse of this optical fiber at the OTDR would be. the resolution gets poorer because of the dispersion in the fiber. In fact. The reason behind this statement is the dispersion present in the optical fiber which causes the input pulse to spread in time as it travels along the fiber. but for higher values of „L‟ the resolution gets poorer. The variance of the reflected pulse at the input of the OTDR would just be a sum of the input and the pulse broadening variances. The LASER diode launches light pulse into the test optical fiber. This signifies that the resolution would now correspond to the pulse width given by the above quantity.10 below. Let us now assume the input pulse that is launched into the optical fiber to be of a Gaussian nature and also the dispersion that takes place in the optical fiber to be Gaussian with respect to distance. Thus for a given OTDR and source. OTDR technique is. The half power width. is (t half . obtained by multiplying this time delay with the velocity of light in the possible for better resolution. the resolution will be a function of the length of the optical fiber. the pulse broadening function of the optical fiber would have a variance of approximately (D σλL)2. the output of which is fed to an optical oscilloscope and the pulse broadening is thus measured. then its variance would be given by ti2. in multi-channel applications. say that resolution is a function of the length of the optical fiber. The reflected pulse from the defect would also be a Gaussian pulse because the dispersion is Gaussian in nature and is a function of the length of travel of the pulse in the optical fiber. The defects nearer to the input end of the optical fiber are detected with higher resolution. hence. but towards the far end of the fiber. a particular channel may be permanently assigned to the OTDR in order to constantly monitor the status and the loss performance of the optical fiber even during its operation and get alerts whenever a flaw arises. We can. Prof. The high-end OTDRs of the modern days are considerably sophisticated and offer resolutions of the order of a few metres.

thus.10: Dispersion measurement of an optical fiber test. Fiber Optics.6) Here „ti‟ . the same OTDR may be used to measure the dispersion in the optical fiber too.Figure 11. the light pulse is allowed to travel back and forth the same fiber a multiple number of times and a dispersion estimate is made from it. The principle of this set-up is also based on the assumption that the output pulse of the fiber is Gaussian in nature and is a convolution of the input pulse and the dispersion broadening function in the optical fiber. Dept. of Electrical Engineering. Prof. Shevgaonkar.K. Since the equation occurs in the method of the OTDR as well. In order to emulate dispersion in larger lengths of optical fiber. IIT Bombay Page 11 . The above discussion. „ ‟ and „L‟ have the same meanings as discussed above. Thus by obtaining the output pulse variance and the input pulse variance for a given length of optical fiber. the dispersion „D‟ in the optical fiber can be calculated by simple algebraic manipulations in the following expression: ( ) (11. R. sometimes. shows different techniques to determine various useful parameters of an optical fiber that determines the suitability of a particular fiber for a particular application and also helps a designer to pick the right kind of fiber for his design in order to get maximum efficiency.