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Loss characteristics of Optical fiber:

1. Attenuation
2. Absorption
3. Scattering
4. Banding loss
5. Dispersion Loss
6. Coupling losses
1. Attenuation:
• Attenuation is the loss of optical energy as it travels through the fiber; this
loss is measured in dB/km.
• Attenuation is a transmission loss that can be measured as a difference
between the output signal power and the input signal power.
It can be expressed in dB as –
Attenuation loss α = 10 log10 (Pinput / Poutput ) dB
The attenuation loss of fiber in dB/km is then expressed as
α = 10 log10 (Pinput / Poutput ) / L dB/km
• Attenuation is a measure of the loss of signal strength or light
power that occurs as light pulses propagate through a run of multimode or
single-mode fiber.

Attenuation in fiber optics, also known as transmission loss, is the reduction in intensity
of the light beam (or signal) with respect to distance traveled through a transmission
Causes of Attenuation:
Empirical research has shown that attenuation in optical fiber is caused primarily by both
scattering and absorption.

Significance of measuring attenuation:

1. Attenuation is an important consideration in the design of optical transmission
links since it determines the maximum repeaterless transmission distance between
Tx and Rx.
Attenuation depends on –
a) Attenuation depends on wavelength used (i.e. frequency used). The most common
peak wavelengths are 780 nm, 850 nm, 1310 nm, 1550 nm, and 1625 nm.
b) Attenuation depends on light intensity i.e input light power
c) Attenuation depends on diameter of optical fiber (diameter of core mainly). For
single/mono mode attenuation is minimum since lesser the traversed distance lesser the
power loss.
d) Attenuation definitely depends on distance. Distance between optical source and

• Glass fiber (which has a low attenuation) is used for long-distance

fiber optic cables; plastic fiber has a higher attenuation and hence
shorter range.

How Attenuation can be minimized?

2. Absorption:
Absorption is the way by which the energy of a photon is taken up by matter, typically
the electrons of an atom. Thus, the light energy is transformed to other forms of energy
for example, to heat. The absorption of light during wave propagation is often called

Types or Classification:
Absorption of light in optical fibers may be intrinsic or extrinsic.

Intrinsic Absorption:
Intrinsic absorption is caused by basic fiber-material properties. If an optical fiber
were absolutely pure, with no imperfections or impurities, then all absorption
would be intrinsic.

• In fiber optics, silica (pure glass) fibers are used. Silica fibers are
used because of their low intrinsic material absorption at the
wavelengths of operation.

In silica glass, the wavelengths of operation range from 700 nanometers (nm) to 1600

Cause of Intrinsic Absorption:

Intrinsic absorption is due to material and electron absorption.

Material absorption is a loss mechanism which results in the dissipation of some

of the transmitted optical power into heat in the optical fiber.
• An absolutely pure silicate glass has little intrinsic absorption due
to its basic material structure.
Electron Absorption:
Intrinsic absorption in the ultraviolet region is caused by electronic absorption.
Basically, absorption occurs when a light particle (photon) interacts with an electron and
excites it to a higher energy level.
((Light is absorbed as photons that excite electrons of the core atom to a higher energy level.))

Figure shows the level of attenuation at the wavelengths of operation. This wavelength of operation is
between two intrinsic absorption regions. The first region is the ultraviolet region (below 400-nm
wavelength). The second region is the infrared region (above 2000-nm wavelength).

How Intrinsic Absorption can be minimized?

The effect of intrinsic absorption can be minimized by suitable composition of core and cladding materials.

Moreover, fibers made of fluoride glasses, for example ZF4 have low losses at higher wavelength.

Extrinsic Absorption. –

Extrinsic absorption is caused by impurities introduced into the fiber material. Metal impurities, such as
iron, nickel, and chromium, are introduced into the fiber during fabrication.

• Extrinsic absorption is caused by the presence of transition metal impurities

known as impurity absorption.
Causes of Extrinsic Absorption:

• Metal impurities, such as iron, nickel, and chromium, are introduced into the
fiber during fabrication cause extrinsic absorption.
• Extrinsic absorption also occurs when hydroxyl ions (OH-) (due to presence of
water vapor) are introduced into the fiber.
• Chromium and copper can cause attenuation in excess of 1 dB/km in the near
infra-red region (~400 GHz).

How Extrinsic Absorption can be minimized???

Extrinsic absorption can be minimized by glass refining techniques such as vapor-phase oxidation which
largely eliminates the effects of these metallic impurities.

A new kind of glass fiber, known as dry fiber, the OH ion concentration is reduced to
such low levels that the 1.39um peak almost disappears. So, by using Dry fiber Extrinsic
absorption can be minimized.

Scattering Loss:

• Scattering occurs when light strikes a substance which emits light of its
own at the same wavelength as the incident light.
• Scattering is a general physical process where some forms of radiation,
such as light are forced to deviate from a straight line by one or more
localized non-uniformities in the medium through which they pass. In
conventional use, this also includes deviation of reflected radiation from
the angle predicted by the law of reflection. Reflections that undergo
scattering are often called diffuse reflections.
• Scattering losses are caused by the interaction of light with density
fluctuations within a fiber. Density changes are produced when optical
fibers are manufactured.
• The propagation of light through the core of an optical fiber is based on
total internal reflection of the lightwave. Rough and irregular surfaces,
even at the molecular level, can cause light rays to be reflected in random
directions. This is called diffuse reflection or scattering, and it is typically
characterized by wide variety of reflection angles.

Causes of Scattering:

During manufacturing, regions of higher and lower molecular density areas, relative to the average density
of the fiber, are created. Light traveling through the fiber interacts with the density areas as shown in figure
2-22. Light is then partially scattered in all directions.

• Microscopic variations in the material density, compositional fluctuations,

structural inhomogeneities and structural defects occurring during fiber
fabrication causes scattering. These gives rise to refractive-index variations within
the glass, these index variations cause scattering of light.

Figure 2-22. - Light scattering.


a) Linear Scattering Losses -1) Rayleigh Scattering and 2) Mie Scattering

b) Non-linear Scattering Losses

a) Linear Scattering Losses:

In this scattering, optical power transferred from one mode to another mode linearly.

Since, it is linear so there is no change in frequency. i.e. the parent/incident signal’s

frequency and scattered/children signal’s frequencies are same.

Linear scattering are of two types –

a) Rayleigh Scattering and

b) Mie Scattering.

The degree of scattering varies as a function of the ratio of the particle diameter to the
wavelength of the radiation, along with many other factors including polarization,
angle, and coherence.

Rayleigh scattering:

• Rayleigh scattering is a scattering of light by particles much smaller than

the wavelength of the light, which may be individual atoms or molecules.
• Rayleigh scattering is a process in which light is scattered by a small
spherical volume of variant refractive index, such as a particle, bubble,
droplet, or even a density fluctuation.
• As light travels in the core, it interacts with the silica molecules in the
core. Rayleigh scattering is the result of these elastic collisions between
the light wave and the silica molecules in the fiber. Rayleigh scattering
accounts for about 96 percent of attenuation in optical fiber.

Something Important to Read:

http://www.sciencemadesimple.com/sky_blue.html )

Light travels through space in a straight line as long as nothing disturbs it. As light
moves through the atmosphere, it continues to go straight until it bumps into a bit of
dust or a gas molecule. Then what happens to the light depends on its wave length
and the size of the thing it hits.

Dust particles and water droplets are much larger than the wavelength of visible
light. When light hits these large particles, it gets reflected, or bounced off, in
different directions. The different colors of light are all reflected by the particle in
the same way. The reflected light appears white because it still contains all of the
same colors.

Gas molecules are smaller than the wavelength of visible light. If light bumps into
them, it acts differently. When light hits a gas molecule, some of it may get
absorbed. After awhile, the molecule radiates (releases, or gives off) the light in a
different direction. The color that is radiated is the same color that was absorbed.
The different colors of light are affected differently. All of the colors can be
absorbed. But the higher frequencies (blues) are absorbed more often than the lower
frequencies (reds). This process is called Rayleigh scattering.
Causes of Rayleigh Scattering:

• It results from non-ideal physical properties of the manufactured fiber.

• It results from inhomogeneities in the core and cladding.

Because of these inhomogeneities problems occur like –

a) Fluctuation in refractive index

b) density and compositional variations.

How to minimize Rayleigh Scattering?

• Rayleigh scattering is caused due to compositional variations

which can be reduced by improved fabrication.

(Fluctuation of refractive index is caused by the freezing in of density

inhomogeneities can not be avoided. )

Equation of Rayleigh Scattering:

Light scattering can be divided into three domains based on a dimensionless size
parameter, α which is defined as

Α = πDp/ λ

where πDp is the circumference(The boundary line of a circle) of a particle and λ is the
wavelength of incident radiation. Based on the value of α, these domains are:

α<<1: Rayleigh scattering (small particle compared to wavelength of light)

α≈1: Mie scattering (particle about the same size as wavelength of light)

Mie Scattering:

• Mie scattering is a scattering of light by particles approximately equal to

the wavelength of the light, which may be individual atoms or molecules.

Causes of Mie Scattering:

• Occurred due to inhomogeneities in the composition of silica. (i.e.

inhomogeneities in the density of SiO2 )
• Irregularities in the core-cladding interface,
• Difference in core cladding refractive index,
• Diameter fluctuations
• Due to presence of strains and bubbles.

The scattering caused by such inhomogeneities is mainly in the forward direction

depending upon the fiber material, design and manufacture.

How Mie scattering can be minimized?

Mie scattering is mainly caused by inhomogeneities which can be minimized by –

• Removing imperfection due to glass manufacturing process

• Carefully controlled extrusion(To push or thrust out) and coating of the fiber

Both Mie and Rayleigh scattering are considered elastic scattering (elastic scattering is
also called Linear scattering) processes, in which the energy (and thus wavelength and
frequency) of the light is not substantially changed.

Non-linear Scattering losses:

If the output optical power does not increase directly proportional to the input optical
power then the system is called non-linear.

Non-linear scattering is also called Non-elastic scattering since wavelength and frequency
may change.

• The non-linear scattering causes transfer of optical power from one mode to the
same or other mode in the either the forward or the reverse direction at different
frequency (i.e. in different wavelength).

Classification/types of Non-linear scattering:

a) Stimulated Brillouin Scattering and b) Stimulated Raman Scattering

stim·u·late Means -
1. To rouse to activity or heightened action, as by spurring or goading; excite.
2. To increase temporarily the activity of (a body organ or part).
3. To excite or invigorate (a person, for example) with a stimulant.
a) Stimulated Brillouin Scattering:

Brillouin scattering occurs when light in a medium (for example in Optical fiber)
interacts with optical density variations and changes its energy (frequency) and path.

((The density variations may be due to acoustic modes (acoustic wave – the wave that
carries sound), such as phonons (***Phonon - a quantum/packet of sound or vibratory
{{the thing that vibrates}} elastic energy, being the analogue of a photon of
electromagnetic energy), magnetic modes, such as magnons {{A magnon is a collective
excitation of the electrons' spin structure in a crystal lattice}}, or temperature gradients.
As described in classical physics, when the medium is compressed its index of refraction
changes and the light's path necessarily bends. }}