Fiber Optic Transmitter

About the fiber optic transmitter

The light-emitting diode (LED) is commonly used as the transducer which converts an electrical signal into light and transmits it into the cable. The LED is particularly suitable for this task as it has an approximately linear relationship between the input current and the light output. The type of LED chosen must closely match the attenuation characteristics of the light path through the cable and the spectral response of the receiving transducer.

An important characteristic of the transmitter is the proportion of its power which is coupled into the fiber optic cable: this is more important than its absolute output power. This proportion is maximized by making purpose-designed LED transmitters which have a spherical lens incorporated into the chip during manufacture. This produces an approximately parallel beam of light into the cable with a typical diameter of 400 Ám.

The proportion of light entering the fiber optic cable is also governed by the quality of the end face of the cable and the way it is bonded to the transmitter. A good end face can be produced by either polishing or cleaving. Polishing involves grinding the fiber end down with progressively finer polishing compounds until a surface of the required quality is obtained. Attachment to the transmitter is then normally achieved by gluing. This is a time-consuming process but uses cheap materials. Cleaving makes use of special kits which nick the fiber, break it very cleanly by applying mechanical force and then attach it to the transmitter by crimping. This is a much faster method but cleaving kits are quite expensive. Both methods produce good results.

The proportion of light transmitted into the cable is also dependent on the proper alignment of the transmitter with the centre of the cable. The effect of misalignment depends on the relative diameters of the cable. Some degree of misalignment can be tolerated except where the beam and cable diameters are equal. The cost of producing exact alignment of the transmitter and cable is very high, as it requires the LED to be exactly aligned in its housing, the fiber to be exactly aligned in its connector and the housing to be exactly aligned with the connector. Therefore, great cost savings can be achieved wherever some misalignment can be tolerated in the specification for the cable.

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