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Endface Contamination Degrades Fiber Networks Cheat Sheet by

Endface contamination will degrade your fiber network
network     fiber     contamination     enface


Fiber-­optic capabi­lities have become so pervasive and so enabling that this technology truly has become the heart of our modern digital age. Just like a human heart, reliab­ility is not just a “nice to have” - it is essential. Networks are expected to work seamlessly the first time, every time, all the time. This will rarely be the case without proper cleaning. Dirty fiber will impact and degrade the perfor­mance of the network

Electr­ostatic charge: Fiber’s worst enemy

Electr­ostatic charge is the invisible enemy. Any time there is contact friction - such as wiping an endface with a dry wipe - an electr­ostatic charge is generated. That electr­ostatic charge draws oppositely charged micros­copic dust particles onto connector endfaces just like a magnet. Oppositely charged dust particles will electr­ically bond to the ferrule surface. These micros­copic particles obstruct the signal path transm­itted along the fiber, and is called insertion loss. In the MicroCare lab, we have documented this phenomenon in as little as 45 seconds after an attempted cleaning.

Electr­ostatic charges can come from any of the following activi­ties:
Dry wiping connectors with wipes that do not have static­-di­ssi­pative properties
Using certain types of foam cleaning sticks to clean and dry an endface (friction from non-co­ndu­ctive cleaning tools)
Cleaning only with compressed air (the rapidly moving air creates friction that can impart an electr­ostatic charge onto noncon­ductive materials)
Inserting or removing a connector into the adapter during mating (more friction)
Removing the protective endcap from the connector or adapter (friction, again)
Connecting to test equipment (a real friction addiction)

Dust Sources

Dead skin and hair
Foam swabs and paper wipes, even “lint-­free” wipes
Zinc whiskers from electr­oplated surfaces
Opening cardboard boxes and reams of paper
Connector wear debris
Dirty test assemblies and tools
Protective end caps for connectors and adapters
Electr­ica­l-g­ene­ration pollution and vehicle emissions
Plant pollen and molds
Because dust particles are so small, dust can be locked into place on and endface by an electr­ostatic charge. This can have a huge and delete­rious effect on perfor­mance of the fiber. The electr­ostatic charge causes dust particles to migrate into the contact zone of the mated ferrule pair. The dust will cause signal degrad­ation as the dust absorbs or reflects back into itself. Another issue is the creation of permanent defects on the ferrule surfaces in the form of scratches or pits

Best practices for speedy networks

Simple steps to ensure contam­ination does not occur. If followed carefully, these steps will eliminate problems related to contam­inated fiber.

1. Wet-dry cleaning is most effective for removing all forms of contam­ination and eliminates electr­ostatic charge.
2. Use optica­l-grade cleaning fluids that leave no residue and are fast-e­vap­ora­ting.
3. Use cleaning fluids in hermet­ically sealed packaging to prevent cross-­con­tam­ina­tion. Refillable pump bottles are simply not up to the task.
4. Use high-a­bso­rbency optica­l-grade fabric wipes (not paper).
5. Always clean both ends of a connector pair, and do it just before mating.
6. Clean new jumpers and patch cords, even right out of the bag, even if they have protective dust covers on them. You can be sure those jumpers weren’t properly cleaned in the factory, and the dust covers were not cleaned at all.
7. When using stick cleaners, use one stick per endface to avoid cross-­con­tam­ina­tion.
8. When using cleaning sticks, only rotate them in one direction; usually four to eight rotations is suffic­ient.
9. Mechanical “push-­to-­clean” cleaners and cassette cleaners are good for light to medium levels of contam­ina­tion.
10. Boxes and tubs of optica­l-grade wipes plus a cleaning fluid are the best practices when splicing pigtails onto bulk cable.
11. Clean tools give you the best results. Always clean test assemb­lies, power meters, light sources and all the other equipment and test gear.

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