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1x2 Step-Index Multimode Fiber Optic Couplers, Ø200 µm Core
99:1 Coupler with SMA905 Connectors
50:50 Coupler with FC/PC Connectors and Ø1.25 mm Ferrules
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Each coupler is engraved with the Item #, serial number, and key specifications for easy identification. In the coupler shown above, when the white port on the left is used as the input, the coupling ratios listed below correspond to the ratio of the measured output power from the white (signal output) port to the red (tap output) port.
Thorlabs' 1x2 Multimode Fiber Optic Couplers are designed to split light over a 400 - 900 nm or a 400 - 2200 nm wavelength range. Couplers with a Ø200 µm core fiber are featured on this page and are available with a 50:50, 75:25, 90:10, or 99:1 coupling ratio. These couplers have a max power level of 5 W with connectors or unterminated (bare) fiber and 10 W when spliced (see the Damage Threshold tab for more details). For best performance, these step-index couplers should be used with an incoherent or multimode light source as described in the Launch Conditions tab.
1x2 couplers are manufactured using the same process as our 2x2 fiber optic couplers, but have only one input port for simplified use and cable management. These couplers are ideal for applications where light is split from the input port into two output ports at the specified coupling ratio and are not recommended for combining applications. The unused port is internally terminated within the coupler housing in a manner that minimizes back reflections (please see the 1x2 Coupler Tutorial tab for details).
Thorlabs provides an individual data sheet for each coupler that contains measured test data verifying performance. A sample data sheet for our Ø200 µm core multimode couplers can be viewed here.
These couplers are offered from stock with SMA905 or 2.0 mm narrow key FC/PC connectors; these have 0.8 m long fiber leads and are jacketed in Ø900 µm Hytrel® tubing. We also offer couplers with SMA905 or FC/PC connectors on the input port and either Ø1.25 mm or Ø2.5 mm ceramic ferrules on the output ports. The fiber leads of these couplers are jacketed in black Ø900 µm Hytrel tubing to minimize light leakage from the fiber. Custom coupler configurations with other wavelengths, fiber types, coupling ratios, connectors, or port configurations are also available. Please contact Tech Support for inquiries.
Thorlabs also offers Ø200 µm core fiber couplers in a 2x2 configuration; they can be found here.
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Figure 1: Diagram of Skew Ray Propagation
Step-Index Multimode Coupler Launch Conditions
Figure 2: Near- and Far-Field Output Beam Profiles of Laser Launched into Multimode Fiber at Angle so that Cladding Modes Were Stripped.
For example, in the Multimode Fiber Beam Profiles Lab Fact, a laser was launched at 15° such that only skew rays propagated in the MM fiber. Skew rays are rays which never intersect the axis of the fiber, as shown in Figure 1. This launch resulted in the beam profiles shown in Figure 2, but still enabled >60% transmission compared to a 0° launch of meridional rays. Skew rays comprise higher-order guided modes. The higher the order of the mode, the less intensity will be concentrated in the center. The donut-shaped beam profile in the far field indicates that only higher-order guided modes are propagating. Although the donut looks similar to cladding mode propagation, cladding modes have been stripped in the setup for Figure 2; this is evident in the absence of light in the cross-hatched cladding region. The use of a laser in this experiment provides a well-defined input modal distribution that allows the effects on the output beam profile to be clearly observed; however, many sources used with step-index MM couplers will not be collimated or coherent.
MM fiber with a step-index profile tends to maintain the same modal distribution (or mode fill) as the initial launch condition. Figure 1 shows how rays initially launched as skew rays will continue to propagate as skew rays. This property is in sharp contrast to another type of MM fiber, graded-index (GRIN), which continuously refocuses rays back towards the center. GRIN fibers will tend to output a Gaussian intensity distribution regardless of the input modal distribution. For step-index fibers, on the other hand, the preservation of input modal distribution makes the output beam profile heavily dependent on initial launch conditions.
Fused step-index fiber couplers exhibit an additional aspect of mode dependence, compared to step-index fiber by itself, due to the nature of evanescent wave coupling. Higher-order guided modes have a larger evanescent field, so they are preferentially coupled into the tap output before lower-order modes. Less light being coupled into the tap fiber will result in these higher-order modes dominating. For example, couplers with a coupling ratio of 99:1 will have predominantly lower-order mode output at the signal port and higher-order mode output at the tap port. In contrast, 50:50 couplers will have similar outputs from both the signal and tap ports. Due to the mode dependence of step-index fiber and multimode coupling, launch conditions for these couplers should closely match EMD, which is the standard used during manufacturing (see the EMD section below for more details).
Tap Port Non-Uniform Beam Profile
For example, the 99:1 far-field image shows a clear donut profile. While this result seems to indicate cladding mode propagation, mode filtering was performed on the beam prior to it entering the coupler. The donut profile also becomes more pronounced with higher coupling ratios; 50:50 couplers will output flat profiles from both the signal and tap ports. Therefore, the far field donut profile of the 75:25, 90:10, and 99:1 coupling ratios is due to the preferential coupling of higher-order modes into the tap port. This behavior may affect applications where precise far-field intensity distribution in the tap port is needed. In those cases, a mode conditioner should be used on the output to achieve the desired output beam profile. Otherwise, this behavior should not affect most multimode coupler applications when these couplers are used with proper launch conditions.
A few steps are required to create launch conditions that satisfy EMD. First, an incoherent source must be used so that there are a large number of initial propagation modes. Then, an overfilled launch (see the Multimode Fiber Tutorial) is used to ensure all modes have at least some initial power in them. Without further mode conditioning, the attenuation of higher-order modes in the initial Gaussian intensity distribution will result in an altered beam profile further down the fiber; therefore, the next step is mode mixing (or mode scrambling), which can be done several ways. Methods include using a diffuser tip attached to the input of a patch cable or bending a patch cable in a serpentine, zigzag, or figure-eight configuration. After mode mixing, the beam profile should be fairly flat, but there could still be the possibility of cladding modes. The next step of mode filtering (or mode stripping) removes these unwanted cladding modes. A standard procedure for mode filtering is to tightly wrap the fiber five to ten times around a mandrel. Step-index MM couplers used with an incoherent source that is mode conditioned to achieve EMD standards will operate with optimal performance.
Definition of 1x2 Fused Fiber Optic Coupler Specifications
This tab provides a brief explanation of how we determine several key specifications for our 1x2 couplers. 1x2 couplers are manufactured using the same process as our 2x2 fiber optic couplers, except the second input port is internally terminated using a proprietary method that minimizes back reflections. For combining light of different wavelengths, Thorlabs offers a line of single mode wavelength division multiplexers (WDMs). The ports on our 1x2 couplers are configured as shown in the schematic below.
Excess loss in dB is determined by the ratio of the total input power to the total output power:
Pport1 is the input power at port 1 and Pport2+Pport3 is the total output power from Ports 2 and 3. All powers are expressed in mW.
Polarization Dependent Loss (PDL)
The polarization dependent loss is defined as the ratio of the maximum and minimum transmissions due to polarization states in couplers. This specification pertains only to couplers not designed for maintaining polarization. PDL is always specified in decibels (dB), and can be calculated with the following equation:
where Pmax is the maximum power able to be transmitted through the coupler when scanning across all possible polarization states. Pmin is the minimum transmission across those same states.
Optical Return Loss (ORL) / Directivity
The directivity refers to the fraction of input light that is lost in the internally terminated fiber end within the coupler housing when port 1 is used as the input. It can be calculated in units of dB using the following equation:
where Pport1 and Pport1b are the optical powers (in mW) in port 1 and the internally terminated fiber, respectively. This output is the result of back reflection at the junction of the legs of the coupler and represents a loss in the total light output at ports 2 and 3. For a 50:50 coupler, the directivity is equal to the optical return loss (ORL).
The insertion loss is defined as the ratio of the input power to the output power at one of the output legs of the coupler (signal or tap). Insertion loss is always specified in decibels (dB). It is generally defined using the equation below:
where Pin and Pout are the input and output powers (in mW). For our 1x2 couplers, the insertion loss specification is provided for both signal and tap outputs; our specifications always list insertion loss for the signal output first. To define the insertion loss for a specific output (port 2 or port 3), the equation is rewritten as:
Insertion loss inherently includes both coupling (e.g., light transferred to the other output leg) and excess loss (e.g., light lost from the coupler) effects. The maximum allowed insertion loss for each output, signal and tap, are both specified. Because the insertion loss in each output is correlated to light coupled to the other output, no coupler will ever have the maximum insertion loss in both outputs simultaneously.
Calculating Insertion Loss using Power Expressed in dBm
Then, the insertion loss in dB can be calculated as follows:
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A graphical representation of the coupling ratio calculation.
Insertion loss (in dB) is the ratio of the input power to the output power from each leg of the coupler as a function of wavelength. It captures both the coupling ratio and the excess loss. The coupling ratio is calculated from the measured insertion loss. Coupling ratio (in %) is the ratio of the optical power from each output port (ports 2 and 3) to the sum of the total power of both output ports as a function of wavelength. Path A represents light traveling from port 1 to port 2 while Path B represents light traveling from port 1 to port 3. It is not impacted by spectral features such as the water absorption region because both output legs are affected equally.
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A graphical representation of the Uniformity calculation.
The uniformity is also calculated from the measured insertion loss. Uniformity is the variation (in dB) of the insertion loss over the bandwidth. It is a measure of how evenly the insertion loss is distributed over the spectral range. The uniformity of Path A is the difference between the value of highest insertion loss and the solid red insertion loss curve (in the Insertion Plot above). The uniformity of Path B is the difference between the solid blue insertion loss curve and the value of lowest insertion loss.
Laser-Induced Damage in Silica Optical Fibers
The following tutorial details damage mechanisms relevant to unterminated (bare) fiber, terminated optical fiber, and other fiber components from laser light sources. These mechanisms include damage that occurs at the air / glass interface (when free-space coupling or when using connectors) and in the optical fiber itself. A fiber component, such as a bare fiber, patch cable, or fused coupler, may have multiple potential avenues for damage (e.g., connectors, fiber end faces, and the device itself). The maximum power that a fiber can handle will always be limited by the lowest limit of any of these damage mechanisms.
While the damage threshold can be estimated using scaling relations and general rules, absolute damage thresholds in optical fibers are very application dependent and user specific. Users can use this guide to estimate a safe power level that minimizes the risk of damage. Following all appropriate preparation and handling guidelines, users should be able to operate a fiber component up to the specified maximum power level; if no maximum is specified for a component, users should abide by the "practical safe level" described below for safe operation of the component. Factors that can reduce power handling and cause damage to a fiber component include, but are not limited to, misalignment during fiber coupling, contamination of the fiber end face, or imperfections in the fiber itself. For further discussion about an optical fiber’s power handling abilities for a specific application, please contact Thorlabs’ Tech Support.
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Undamaged Fiber End
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Damaged Fiber End
There are several potential damage mechanisms that can occur at the air / glass interface. Light is incident on this interface when free-space coupling or when two fibers are mated using optical connectors. High-intensity light can damage the end face leading to reduced power handling and permanent damage to the fiber. For fibers terminated with optical connectors where the connectors are fixed to the fiber ends using epoxy, the heat generated by high-intensity light can burn the epoxy and leave residues on the fiber facet directly in the beam path.
Damage Mechanisms on the Bare Fiber End Face
Damage mechanisms on a fiber end face can be modeled similarly to bulk optics, and industry-standard damage thresholds for UV Fused Silica substrates can be applied to silica-based fiber. However, unlike bulk optics, the relevant surface areas and beam diameters involved at the air / glass interface of an optical fiber are very small, particularly for coupling into single mode (SM) fiber. therefore, for a given power density, the power incident on the fiber needs to be lower for a smaller beam diameter.
The table to the right lists two thresholds for optical power densities: a theoretical damage threshold and a "practical safe level". In general, the theoretical damage threshold represents the estimated maximum power density that can be incident on the fiber end face without risking damage with very good fiber end face and coupling conditions. The "practical safe level" power density represents minimal risk of fiber damage. Operating a fiber or component beyond the practical safe level is possible, but users must follow the appropriate handling instructions and verify performance at low powers prior to use.
Calculating the Effective Area for Single Mode and Multimode Fibers
As an example, SM400 single mode fiber has a mode field diameter (MFD) of ~Ø3 µm operating at 400 nm, while the MFD for SMF-28 Ultra single mode fiber operating at 1550 nm is Ø10.5 µm. The effective area for these fibers can be calculated as follows:
SM400 Fiber: Area = Pi x (MFD/2)2 = Pi x (1.5 µm)2 = 7.07 µm2 = 7.07 x 10-8 cm2
To estimate the power level that a fiber facet can handle, the power density is multiplied by the effective area. Please note that this calculation assumes a uniform intensity profile, but most laser beams exhibit a Gaussian-like shape within single mode fiber, resulting in a higher power density at the center of the beam compared to the edges. Therefore, these calculations will slightly overestimate the power corresponding to the damage threshold or the practical safe level. Using the estimated power densities assuming a CW light source, we can determine the corresponding power levels as:
SM400 Fiber: 7.07 x 10-8 cm2 x 1 MW/cm2 = 7.1 x 10-8 MW = 71 mW (Theoretical Damage Threshold)
SMF-28 Ultra Fiber: 8.66 x 10-7 cm2 x 1 MW/cm2 = 8.7 x 10-7 MW = 870 mW (Theoretical Damage Threshold)
The effective area of a multimode (MM) fiber is defined by the core diameter, which is typically far larger than the MFD of an SM fiber. For optimal coupling, Thorlabs recommends focusing a beam to a spot roughly 70 - 80% of the core diameter. The larger effective area of MM fibers lowers the power density on the fiber end face, allowing higher optical powers (typically on the order of kilowatts) to be coupled into multimode fiber without damage.
Damage Mechanisms Related to Ferrule / Connector Termination
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Plot showing approximate input power that can be incident on a single mode silica optical fiber with a termination. Each line shows the estimated power level due to a specific damage mechanism. The maximum power handling is limited by the lowest power level from all relevant damage mechanisms (indicated by a solid line).
Fibers terminated with optical connectors have additional power handling considerations. Fiber is typically terminated using epoxy to bond the fiber to a ceramic or steel ferrule. When light is coupled into the fiber through a connector, light that does not enter the core and propagate down the fiber is scattered into the outer layers of the fiber, into the ferrule, and the epoxy used to hold the fiber in the ferrule. If the light is intense enough, it can burn the epoxy, causing it to vaporize and deposit a residue on the face of the connector. This results in localized absorption sites on the fiber end face that reduce coupling efficiency and increase scattering, causing further damage.
For several reasons, epoxy-related damage is dependent on the wavelength. In general, light scatters more strongly at short wavelengths than at longer wavelengths. Misalignment when coupling is also more likely due to the small MFD of short-wavelength SM fiber that also produces more scattered light.
To minimize the risk of burning the epoxy, fiber connectors can be constructed to have an epoxy-free air gap between the optical fiber and ferrule near the fiber end face. Our high-power multimode fiber patch cables use connectors with this design feature.
Determining Power Handling with Multiple Damage Mechanisms
When fiber cables or components have multiple avenues for damage (e.g., fiber patch cables), the maximum power handling is always limited by the lowest damage threshold that is relevant to the fiber component. In general, this represents the highest input power that can be incident on the patch cable end face and not the coupled output power.
As an illustrative example, the graph to the right shows an estimate of the power handling limitations of a single mode fiber patch cable due to damage to the fiber end face and damage via an optical connector. The total input power handling of a terminated fiber at a given wavelength is limited by the lower of the two limitations at any given wavelength (indicated by the solid lines). A single mode fiber operating at around 488 nm is primarily limited by damage to the fiber end face (blue solid line), but fibers operating at 1550 nm are limited by damage to the optical connector (red solid line).
In the case of a multimode fiber, the effective mode area is defined by the core diameter, which is larger than the effective mode area for SM fiber. This results in a lower power density on the fiber end face and allows higher optical powers (on the order of kilowatts) to be coupled into the fiber without damage (not shown in graph). However, the damage limit of the ferrule / connector termination remains unchanged and as a result, the maximum power handling for a multimode fiber is limited by the ferrule and connector termination.
Please note that these are rough estimates of power levels where damage is very unlikely with proper handling and alignment procedures. It is worth noting that optical fibers are frequently used at power levels above those described here. However, these applications typically require expert users and testing at lower powers first to minimize risk of damage. Even still, optical fiber components should be considered a consumable lab supply if used at high power levels.
In addition to damage mechanisms at the air / glass interface, optical fibers also display power handling limitations due to damage mechanisms within the optical fiber itself. These limitations will affect all fiber components as they are intrinsic to the fiber itself. Two categories of damage within the fiber are damage from bend losses and damage from photodarkening.
A special category of optical fiber, called double-clad fiber, can reduce the risk of bend-loss damage by allowing the fiber’s cladding (2nd layer) to also function as a waveguide in addition to the core. By making the critical angle of the cladding/coating interface higher than the critical angle of the core/clad interface, light that escapes the core is loosely confined within the cladding. It will then leak out over a distance of centimeters or meters instead of at one localized spot within the fiber, minimizing the risk of damage. Thorlabs manufactures and sells 0.22 NA double-clad multimode fiber, which boasts very high, megawatt range power handling.
Even with the above strategies in place, all fibers eventually experience photodarkening when used with UV or short-wavelength light, and thus, fibers used at these wavelengths should be considered consumables.
General Cleaning and Operation Guidelines
Tips for Using Fiber at Higher Optical Power
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Total Internal Reflection in an Optical Fiber
Guiding Light in an Optical Fiber
Optical fibers are part of a broader class of optical components known as waveguides that utilize total internal reflection (TIR) in order to confine and guide light within a solid or liquid structure. Optical fibers, in particular, are used in numerous applications; common examples include telecommunications, spectroscopy, illumination, and sensors.
One of the more common glass (silica) optical fibers uses a structure known as a step-index fiber, which is shown in the image to the right. Step-index fibers have an inner core made from a material with a refractive index that is higher than the surrounding cladding layer. Within the fiber, a critical angle of incidence exists such that light will reflect off the core/cladding interface rather than refract into the surrounding medium. To fulfill the conditions for TIR in the fiber, the angle of incidence of light launched into the fiber must be less than a certain angle, which is defined as the acceptance angle, θacc. Snell's law can be used to calculate this angle:
where ncore is the refractive index of the fiber core, nclad is the refractive index of the fiber cladding, n is the refractive index of the outside medium, θcrit is the critical angle, and θacc is the acceptance half-angle of the fiber. The numerical aperture (NA) is a dimensionless quantity used by fiber manufacturers to specify the acceptance angle of an optical fiber and is defined as:
In step-index fibers with a large core (multimode), the NA can be calculated directly using this equation. The NA can also be determined experimentally by tracing the far-field beam profile and measuring the angle between the center of the beam and the point at which the beam intensity is 5% of the maximum; however, calculating the NA directly provides the most accurate value.
Number of Modes in an Optical Fiber
Each potential path that light propagates through in an optical fiber is known as a guided mode of the fiber. Depending on the physical dimensions of the core/cladding regions, refractive index, and wavelength, anything from one to thousands of modes can be supported within a single optical fiber. The two most commonly manufactured variants are single mode fiber (which supports a single guided mode) and multimode fiber (which supports a large number of guided modes). In a multimode fiber, lower-order modes tend to confine light spatially in the core of the fiber; higher-order modes, on the other hand, tend to confine light spatially near the core/cladding interface.
Using a few simple calculations, it is possible to estimate the number of modes (single mode or multimode) supported by an optical fiber. The normalized optical frequency, also known as the V-number, is a dimensionless quantity that is proportional to the free space optical frequency but is normalized to guiding properties of an optical fiber. The V-number is defined as:
where V is the normalized frequency (V-number), a is the fiber core radius, and λ is the free space wavelength. Multimode fibers have very large V-numbers; for example, a Ø50 µm core, 0.39 NA multimode fiber at a wavelength of 1.5 µm has a V-number of 40.8.
For multimode fiber, which has a large V-number, the number of modes supported is approximated using the following relationship.
In the example above of the Ø50 µm core, 0.39 NA multimode fiber, it supports approximately 832 different guided modes that can all travel simultaneously through the fiber.
Single mode fibers are defined with a V-number cut-off of V < 2.405, which represents the point at which light is coupled only into the fiber's fundamental mode. To meet this condition, a single mode fiber has a much smaller core size and NA compared to a multimode fiber at the same wavelength. One example of this, SMF-28 Ultra single mode fiber, has a nominal NA of 0.14 and an Ø8.2 µm core at 1550 nm, which results in a V-number of 2.404.
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Attenuation Due to Macrobend Loss
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Attenuation Due to Microbend Loss
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Beam profile measurement of FT200EMT multimode fiber and a former generation M565F1 LED (replaced by the M565F3) showing light guided in the cladding rather than the core of the fiber.
Sources of Attenuation
Loss within an optical fiber, also referred to as attenuation, is characterized and quantified in order to predict the total transmitted power lost within a fiber optic setup. The sources of these losses are typically wavelength dependent and range from the material used in the fiber itself to bending of the fiber. Common sources of attenuation are detailed below:
Contaminants in the fiber also contribute to the absorption loss. One example of an undesired impurity is water molecules that are trapped in the glass of the optical fiber, which will absorb light around 1300 nm and 2.94 µm. Since telecom signals and some lasers operate in that same region, any water molecules present in the fiber will attenuate the signal significantly.
The concentration of ions in the fiber glass is often controlled by manufacturers to tune the transmission/attenuation properties of a fiber. For example, hydroxyl ions (OH-) are naturally present in silica and absorb light in the NIR-IR spectrum. Therefore, fibers with low-OH content are preferred for transmission at telecom wavelengths. On the other hand, fibers with high-OH content typically exhibit increased transmission at UV wavelengths and thus may be preferred by users interested in applications such as fluorescence or UV-VIS spectroscopy.
Macrobend loss is typically associated with the physical bending of an optical fiber; for example, rolling it in a tight coil. As shown in the image to the right, guided light is spatially distributed within the core and cladding regions of the fiber. When a fiber is bent at a radius, light near the outer radius of the bend cannot maintain the same spatial mode profile without exceeding the speed of light. Instead, the energy is lost to the surroundings as radiation. For a large bend radius, the losses associated with bending are small; however, at bend radii smaller than the recommended bend radius of a fiber, bend losses become very significant. For short periods of time, optical fibers can be operated at a small bend radius; however, for long-term storage, the bend radius should be larger than the recommended value. Use proper storage conditions (temperature and bend radius) to reduce the likelihood of permanently damaging the fiber; the FSR1 Fiber Storage Reel is designed to minimize high bend loss.
Microbend loss arises from changes in the internal geometry of the fiber, particularly the core and cladding layers. These random variations (i.e., bumps) in the fiber structure disturb the conditions needed for total internal reflection, causing propagating light to couple into a non-propagating mode that leaks from the fiber (see the image to the right for details). Unlike macrobend loss, which is controlled by the bend radius, microbend loss occurs due to permanent defects in the fiber that are created during fiber manufacturing.
Cladding modes may be undesired for some applications (e.g., launching into free space) because of their effect on the beam spatial profile. Over long fiber lengths, these modes will naturally attenuate. For short fiber lengths (<10 m), one method for removing cladding modes from a fiber is to use a mandrel wrap at a radius that removes cladding modes while keeping the desired propagating modes.
Underfilled Launch Condition
Diagram illustrating an underfilled launch condition (left) and a beam profile measurement using a FT200EMT multimode fiber (right).
Overfilled Launch Condition
Diagram illustrating an overfilled launch condition (left) and a beam profile measurement using a FT200EMT multimode fiber (right).
There are advantages and disadvantages to underfilled or overfilled launch conditions, depending on the needs of the intended application. For measuring the baseline performance of a multimode fiber, Thorlabs recommends using a launch condition where the beam diameter is 70-80% of the fiber core diameter. Over short distances, an overfilled fiber has more output power; however, over long distances (>10 - 20 m) the higher-order modes that more susceptible to attenuation will disappear.
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Couplers with ceramic ferrules on the output ports have black tubing.
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Couplers with connectors on the output ports have white and red tubing.
These 50:50 split ratio couplers feature Ø200 µm core, 0.22 NA fiber with a 400 - 900 nm or 400 - 2200 nm wavelength range. Couplers with either SMA905 or FC/PC connectors on all three ports (shown in the first image to the right) feature white and red Ø900 µm Hytrel® tubing.
Thorlabs also offers couplers with SMA905 or FC/PC connectors on the input port and either Ø1.25 mm or Ø2.5 mm ceramic ferrules on the output ports. These couplers have black tubing on all ports to minimize light leakage with white or red heat-shrink wrap to indicate different ports (as seen in the image to the far right). These couplers (highlighted green in the table below) are commonly used in optogenetics applications.