The use of fibre optics as light guidance allows a great modularity and flexibility in the setup of an optical measurement system. Optical fibres can be made of many materials, such as plastic, glasses, and silicates (SiO2). For high-quality fibre optics, as used in spectroscopic applications, synthetic fused silica (amorphous silicon dioxide) is used, which can be intentionally doped with trace elements to adjust the optical properties of the glass.

Basic Principles

The basic principle of light transport through an optical fibre is total internal reflection. This means that the light within the numerical aperture of a fibre (NA = input acceptance cone) will be reflected and transported through the fibre. The size of the numerical aperture depends on the materials used for core and cladding.

We identify two basic types of silica fibres: single-mode and multi-mode fibres, depending on the propagation state of the light, travelling down the fibre. For most spectroscopic applications multi-mode fibres are used. Multi-mode fibres can be divided into 2 subcategories: step-index and graded-index. A relatively large core and high NA allow light to be easily coupled into the fibre, which allows the use of relatively inexpensive termination techniques. Step-index fibres are mainly used in spectroscopic applications.

Graded-index multimode fibres have a refractive index gradually decreasing from the core out through the cladding. Since the light travels faster in material with lower refractive index, the modal dispersion (amount of pulse-spreading) will be less.
These graded-index fibres are mainly used in telecommunication application, where dispersion at long distance (2-15km) plays an important role.

Product Codes

A product code consists of the following attributes:

Types of Product

  • FC: standard fibre-optic cable
  • FCB: bifurcated fibre
  • FCR: fibre-reflection probe
  • FDP: fibre dip probe

Total Number of Optical Fibres

Almost any number is possible; please contact us to discuss the options available.

Wavelength Range

  • UV: 200-800 nm:
  • IR: 350-2500 nm:
  • UVIR: 200-2500 nm:

Fibre Core Diameter

  • 8 µm*
  • 50 µm**
  • 100 µm***
  • 200 µm***
  • 400 µm***
  • 600 µm***
  • 800 µm***
  • 1000 µm***

*Only for IR fibres
**Only for UV or IR fibres
***Only for UVIR fibres

Overall Length

Expressed in metres. Almost any length is possible; please contact us to discuss the options available.

Jacketing

  • BX: stainless steel
  • ME: chrome-plated brass
  • MS: metal silicone

Other Options

  • HT: high temperature
  • HTX: extremely high temperature
  • PK: PEEK:
  • HY: Hastelloy®

Fibre-Optic Design

Core

Multi-mode step index silica fibres are generally used for spectroscopic applications. These range in core thickness from 50 to 1000 microns. The core is made out of pure silica. Other fibre cores with much higher absorption are made out of certain glass types or plastics. These are not offered in this article.

First, a distinction is made between silica with high or low OH content. Silica fibres with high OH (600-1000 PPM) are used in the UV/VIS wavelength range because of the low absorption in the UV. They are referred to as UV/VIS fibres. For Deep-UV applications (below 230 nm), special solarization resistant fibres can be used.

The water content causes strong absorption peaks in the NIR wavelength range. In order to get good fibres for the NIR range, the ‘water’ is removed from the silica. This results in low OH fibres (<2 PPM) with low absorption in the NIR. They are referred to as VIS/NIR fibres. Best of both worlds are the so-called broadband fibres, which can be used for the UV-NIR range (200-2500 nm), the product code for these fibres is UVIR. Avantes uses this broadband type of fibre as standard.

Theoretical Background Fibre Optic Cable Core

Cladding

In order to get the light-guiding effect, the core is cladded with a lower index of refraction material. For the highest-quality fibres with the lowest absorption, this is a fluorine-doped silica, the so-called silica-silica or all-silica fibres, with a numerical aperture (NA) of 0.22.

Buffers

Without further protection fibres would easily break, because of small scratches or other irregularities on the surface. An extra layer, the buffer, is therefore added. This buffer also determines under what circumstances the fibre can be used. Temperature range, radiation, vacuum, chemical environment, and bending are factors to be considered.

Polyimide buffers offer a wide temperature range (-100 to 400°C) and superior solvent resistance. Also, this material is non-flammable. Drawbacks are sensitivity to micro bending and the difficulty to remove it.

For extreme temperatures (-270 to 700°C), metal buffers are used. Metal buffers can withstand a continuous high temperature up to 500 °C and intermittent even up to 700°C. Low outgassing makes them also excellent for use in UHV environments.

Theoretical Background Fibre-Optic Cable Buffer
Fiber material Standard
Temperature range -190 °C to +400°C
Fiber type Step Index Multimode
Core numerical aperture 0.22 ± 0.02
Buffer Polyimide
Available diameters 50/100/200/400/600/800/1000 µm
Laser damage resistant core 1,3 kW/mm2 CW at 1060 nm, up to 10 J, pulsed
Bend radius Momentary 100 x clad radius, long term 600 x clad radius

Transmission UV/VIS Fibre-Optic Cables

Theoretical Background Fibre-Optic Cable Table 1

Transmission VIS/NIR Fibre-Optic Cables

Theoretical Background Fibre-Optic Cable Table 2

Transmission UV/VIS/NIR Fibre-Optic Cables

Theoretical Background Fibre-Optic Cable Table 3

Solarization-Resistant Fibres for Deep UV Applications

Most spectroscopic applications with fibre-optics have been restricted to wavelength ranges above 230 nm, because standard silica fibres with an undoped core and fluorine doped cladding are frequently damaged by exposure to deep-UV light (below 230 nm). This solarization effect is induced by the formation of ‘colour centres’ with an absorbance band of 214 nm. These colour centres are formed when impurities (like Cl) exist in the core fibre material and form unbound electron pairs on the Si atom, which are affected by the deep-UV radiation.

Not long ago, solarization resistant fibres, which were hydrogen loaded, were developed (UVI). The disadvantage of these fibres is the limitation on smaller fibre diameters and limited lifetime, caused by the H2 outgassing from the fibre. Recently, with the availability of a modified core preform, a new fibre became available (UVM). This fibre provides long-term stability at 30-40% transmission (for 215 nm).

Solarization-resistant fibres, which were hydrogen loaded, were developed for this purpose. The broadband fibres Avantes uses are Solarization-Resistant. This means that these fibres provide long-term stability at 30-40% transmission (for 215 nm). Small degradation of the transmission can still take place.

First couple of hours of these fibres show a high drop in transmission (100% to 40%). In order to have a stable transmission from the start, one can order the PRESOL option. When PRESOL is ordered with a fibre or probe Avantes pre-solarized the product for a 10-hour period, to have a constant transmission of 30-40% @ 215 nm

Solarization Normal UV400 Fibre

Theoretical Background Fibre-Optic Cable Table 4

Solarization UVIR200 Fibre

Theoretical Background Fibre-Optic Cable Table 5

Solarization 200 Micron UVIR Fibre

Theoretical Background Fibre-Optic Cable Table 6
PRESOL Presolarization of a UVIR fiber

Fibre-Optic Jacketing

Avantes offers different jacketing material for different applications. Standard fibre-optic cables and bifurcated cables are protected by a Kevlar-reinforced polypropylene inner tubing with PVC red outer jacket. All of our standard reflection probes are protected by a flexible stainless steel jacket with interlocking profile (BX) or a chrome-plated brass outer jacket, with hooked profile (ME) for optimum strain relief with silicon or PTFE inner tubing.

For waterproof and some medical applications, stainless-steel spiral jacketing with Glassilk and grey outer silicon rubber coating can be provided. Inside this jacket, silicon or PTFE inner tubing is used as well. For heavy industrial environments, we advise the metal stainless steel (-BX) jacketing. It features a tensile strength of 950N. Especially for small, flexible, endoscopic probes, we use a PVC rubber jacketing. Some specifics on the jacketing can be found in the technical information below. Contact us if you have any special requirements.

Kevlar reinforced PVC (Standard) Chrome-plated brass (ME) Stainless steel (BX) Silicon-coated stainless steel (MS)
Inner tubing Polypropylene Silicon/PTFE Silicon/PTFE Silicon/PTFE
Outer dimensions 3.8 mm 5.0 mm 6.0 mm 5.8 mm
Max. bending radius 18 mm 18 mm 35 mm 18 mm
Temperature range -20°C to +65°C -65°C to +250°C -65°C to +250°C -60°C to +180°C
Tensile strength 150 N 350 N 950 N 70 N
Application Standard Industrial Heavy industrial Waterproof IP67
-MS Stainless steel spiral jacket with glassilk and gray outer silicon rubber coating
-ME Flexible chrome-plated brass outer jacket with hooked profile
-BX Metal stainless steel jacket, with fully interlocking profile
Theoretical Background Fibre-Optic Cable Jacketing
Types of jacketing from top to bottom: standard, -MS, -ME, -BX

Fibre-Optic Probe Properties

All Avantes fibre-optic cables and probes can be modified based on customers’ requests. Most materials we use in our fibre-optic assemblies can be replaced with others to improve specific chemical or thermal resistance or to enhance vacuum or pressure properties. Please contact our fibre design engineers with your specific request.

In the following paragraphs, some of the most essential technical parameters are listed for the materials we use.

Thermal resistance

The thermal resistance of a fibre-optic assembly depends on some of the materials used:

  • Fibre, the standard fibre design has a polyimide buffer, covering a wide thermal range –190 to 400 °C. For higher temperatures, metal-clad coated (to 500°C) fibres are recommended.
  • Jacketing: the standard jacketing is PVC based and has a small temperature range (-20°C to 65°C). For higher temperatures, a flexible metal jacketing (-BX/ME) with silicone inner tubing (up to 250°C) or stainless steel tubing (not flexible, to 750°C) is recommended.
  • Probe ends, connectors and ferrules are standard made of metal and have a wide temperature range. For special plastics, like PVC, PEEK, and Teflon, a limited temperature range is applicable.
  • Bonding epoxy, the standard epoxy used is a heat curing bonding epoxy with a temperature range of –60°C to 175°C. The curing temperature is standard 100 °C, for high temperature ranges (order code -HT), the curing temperature is 200°C.
Temperature range Fiber Sleeving Probe end Bonding
-20°C to +65°C Standard Polyimide Standard PVC Standard metal; PVC; PEEK; PTFE Standard Epoxy
-30°C to +100°C Standard Polyimide Metal (-ME/-BX) or silicone (-MS) Standard metal; PVC; PEEK; PTFE Standard Epoxy
-60°C to +200°C (HT) Standard Polyimide Metal (-ME/-BX) or silicone (-MS) Standard metal; PVC; PEEK; PTFE High temperature curing epoxy
-HT High temperature version (up to 200°C)

Chemical Resistance

The thermal resistance of a fibre-optic assembly depends on some of the materials used:

  • Fibre: the standard fibre design has a polyimide buffer, which normally will not be in contact with the sample; the quartz core provides good resistance against most solvents
  • Jacketing, the standard jacketing is PVC based and has a relatively good chemical resistance. The –BX stainless steel and –ME chrome plated brass jacketing also have a good chemical resistance, but are not waterproof. The Silicone metal jacketing (-MS) is recommended for waterproof environments, biomedical applications, etc. The PEEK and PTFE jacketing have the best chemical resistance.
  • Probe ends, connectors, and ferrules are always made of stainless steel (316) and are not very well suited to corrosive environments. For most corrosive environments PEEK, PTFE or Hastelloy® C276 are recommended.
  • Bonding, the standard heat-curing two-component epoxy used is resistant to water, inorganic acids and salts, alkalis and many aggressive organic solvents and most petrochemical products, and an extended range of organic and inorganic environments.

The table below gives a summary for the chemical resistance for most materials used. It has been drawn up on the basis of relevant sources in accordance with the state of the art; no claim to completeness. The data constitutes recommendations only, for which no liability can be accepted.

Please contact us if you have any doubt about the materials to use for your application.

Theoretical Background Fibre-Optic Cable Chemical Resistance
-PK PEEK probe material, replaces stainless steel
-HY Hastelloy® C276 probe material, replaces stainless steel

Fibre-Optic Connectors

Standard SMA Connectors

We supply all of our standard fibre-optic cables, bundles, and probes with SMA-905 connectors that easily fit into our complete range of spectrometers, light sources, and accessories.

The SMA-905 connectors are screw-fitted and can be rotated over 360 degrees. The typical insertion loss for the connectors is 0.5 dB. The maximum filling diameter for bundles is 2.46mm.

Theoretical Background Fibre-Optic Cable SMA

FC/PC Connectors

Optional FC/PC-connectors can be mounted to our fibre-optic products. The multimode FC/PC connectors have an extremely low insertion loss of <0.2 dB. The FC/PC connector cannot rotate and always mounts into the same fixed position, and therefore has a high reproducibility.

Theoretical Background Fibre-Optic Cable FCPC
FC/PC FC/PC connector, replaces standard SMA connector