Online Exclusive

Contamination Beware: Cleaning 101 for Fibre Optics


Posted by Camilla Andersson on October 24, 2012

 Grasping a few basic cleaning techniques can save you time and money.


Over the past decade, the use of fibre optics in the medical industry has increased steadily. From extensive medical applications, including light therapy, arthroscopic surgery, x-ray imaging, ophthalmic lasers, and lab and clinical diagnostics, to simple communication processes, such as transmitting patient information, fibre optics help medical professionals conduct procedures that were previously not possible.

A fibre optic cleaning stick being used to clean an LC connector located in a mating sleeve. The stick is engineered to reach down into the mating sleeve and clean the endface of a fibre optic termini located within. Photo courtesy of MicroCare, Sticklers.

Maintenance of the connector endface is imperative for the fibre optic instrument to work correctly. It is an exacting job: the microscopic termini that create a connection must meet at an exact place, and the glass cores need to be perfectly aligned in order to have signal transmitted to and from the device. In addition, the termini endfaces must be completely clean of contaminants to ensure minimal signal loss. One of the most basic and important procedures for the maintenance of fibre optic systems is to clean the fibre optic termini.

Contamination challenges


Sidebar: Do’s and Don’ts when Cleaning Fibre Optics

 

Cleanliness is crucial to the performance of fibre optic instruments. Any contamination on the termini endface can cause failure of the component or the system as a whole. Even microscopic particles on the endfaces can cause a variety of problems for optical connections. One of the biggest challenges of contamination is that it cannot be seen with the naked eye, and one must typically use a specialised 200x or 400x inspection scope to determine the cleanliness of the endface. A close inspection of the connector is critical to identify that particles and residue are completely eliminated, thereby ensuring that connections work to their full potential.

A variety of serious, undesired outcomes could occur if a contaminated fibre optic connection is used, from deteriorated performance levels to ruined instruments. A dirty fibre optic endface will significantly degrade signal transmission and can result in blocking the signal all together. Even if a particle is only situated on the ferrule or the edge of the endface, it can cause an air gap or misalignment in the termini between the cores. This can result in back reflections, instability in the laser system, signal attenuation or even a system shutdown. Another potential issue is a scratched surface as a result of dust particles trapped between two termini endfaces. In addition, some fibre optic instruments, such as those using high-power Class IV lasers, generate a significant amount of heat, which, when in contact with contaminants, can spark a violent reaction or fire.

Inspection scope photos at 400X magnification of a pristine clean termini endface. Note the actual glass fibre is enclosed in the small white dot seen in the clean and particulate views.
Inspection scope photos at 400X magnification of a termini endface contaminated with finger oil. The fibre is completely obscured. Note the actual glass fibre is enclosed in the small white dot seen in the clean and particulate views.

One of the biggest challenges related to cleaning fibre optic termini is finding a process that works. Improvising a cleaning process will almost certainly lead to failure, as previously outlined. The best advice is to inspect, clean and inspect again. Repeat this process until you are absolutely sure the instrument is clear of all contaminants. Spending the time to clean it right the first time saves time and money in the end.

Cleaning methods 101
Materials used to clean the endfaces must be pristine; otherwise you could make it worse by adding contamination. It may be intuitive to wipe the endface on your gown or a cloth, but under a typical fibre optic inspection scope, those items carry a large variety of contaminants that could soil the connector. Even touching the termini with your finger will cause it to be significantly dirtied with skin oil. To avoid further contamination, make sure to use a product that has been specifically manufactured for cleaning fibre optics. Always wash your hands prior to using cleaning materials to minimise the transfer of skin oil onto the cleaning surfaces.

There are two primary methods available to properly clean fibre optic termini: a specialty wipe for male connectors and a swab for female connectors. Particulates, oils and salts are the three basic types of contaminants found on the endfaces, all of which require their own cleaning methods. Particulates are solids that are held on the endface by a static attraction. The best way to clean these types of contaminants is by dissipating the static charge that both attracts and holds them in place, which usually can be done with a specialty cleaning fluid. Cleaning fluids also are used to dissolve oils found on the fibre. Salts, on the other hand, are not necessarily fully removed by cleaning fluids alone. While cleaning fluids may quickly rinse away the oils, they tend to leave salt remains behind in the form of a white residue that can be very difficult to remove. Mechanical action that a wipe or a swab provides is usually combined with a cleaning fluid to fully eliminate oil and salt left on the termini endface.

Buyer beware, it’s fair to say that some cleaning products on the market can leave the endface dirtier than when you started. To avoid this situation, look for products that offer engineered solutions formulated to rid the termini endface of particulates, oils and salts. Avoid using aqueous (water-based) cleaning solutions or pure isopropyl alcohol (IPA), as violent reactions could potentially occur. Aqueous products are slow to dry and can leave moisture on the endface. In cold ambient temperatures, the moisture may actually freeze on the endface and alignment sleeve. If the moisture is not completely removed before the fibre is connected in the sleeve, the laser-energised fibre will instantly vaporise the remaining liquid into a gas, causing an explosion through sudden expansion of the vapours. As with water-based cleaners, IPA may explode or catch on fire when left on a highly energised fibre endface. Adding insult to injury, IPA frequently leaves a hazy film behind when it dries. What you should look for is a fast-drying, high-purity fluid engineered specifically for cleaning fibre optics.

Inspection scope photos at 400X magnification of a termini endface contaminated with particulate. Note the actual glass fibre is enclosed in the small white dot seen in the clean and particulate views.Photos courtesy of MicroCare, Sticklers

High-purity cleaning fluids can and should be used with both wipe and swab applications. However, beware of presaturated cleaning materials. Presaturated wipes and swabs often contain microscopic contaminants drawn from the plastic packaging, which will transfer to the endface during the cleaning process and result in further contamination problems. Instead, carefully apply a small amount of high-purity cleaning fluid on the corner of a dry wipe or the tip of the swab and then apply to the fibre optic termini. A well-engineered cleaning fluid will not only dissolve oils found on the endface, but will help to eliminate the electrostatic charge generated when the applicator is pulled out of its packaging. Be sure to not touch the area of the wipe or swab you will be using with your finger or your clothing. Should you touch this area or drop it on the ground, discard the wipe or swab and start over. Once the cleaning process is complete, discard the wipe or swab and inspect the endface to make sure all contaminants have been eliminated.

Bottom line: Performance-critical cleaning
As fibre optics usage continues to grow in the medical industry, it is imperative to clean the termini endfaces properly the first time around with the right products. The consequences of an unclean fibre optic can be detrimental to your business operations. Medical professionals can’t afford to have a blocked connection, a fire, or a complete system shutdown when there is a patient on the table. Use the correct cleaning solutions and closely inspect the endface to avoid these costly mistakes. Investing the time, energy and money into the cleaning process at the beginning will end up saving you in the end.

 

 

Jay Tourigny is
Vice President of Operations at MicroCare Medical



Find more content on:
No votes yet


Login to post comments

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Ola

keep posting such relevant article
info on bartending

I admit, I have not been on

I admit, I have not been on this web page in a long time... however it was another joy to see It is such an important topic and ignored by so many, even professionals. professionals. I thank you to help making people more aware of possible issues.
Insulin

Yes i am totally agreed with

Yes i am totally agreed with this article and i just want say that this article is very nice and very informative article.I will make sure to be reading your blog more. You made a good point but I can't help but wonder, what about the other side? !!!!!!THANKS!!!!!!
www.healthwisetech.com/

Very useful post. This is my

Very useful post. This is my first time i visit here. I found so many interesting stuff in your blog especially its discussion. Really its great article. Keep it up.
Very useful post. This is my first time i visit here. I found so many interesting stuff in your blog especially its discussion. Really its great article. Keep it up.
bubble soccer good morning america

blue ribbon home warranty

Such a very useful article. Very interesting to read this article.I would like to thank you for the efforts you had made for writing this awesome article.
how do home warranties work
210 home warranty
blue ribbon home warranty

Great post I would like to

Great post I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this interesting and knowledgeable article.
best home remedies for high blood pressure

Yes i am totally agreed with

Yes i am totally agreed with this article and i just want say that this article is very nice and very informative article.I will make sure to be reading your blog more. You made a good point but I can't help but wonder, what about the other side? !!!!!!THANKS!!!!!!
First aid

I am happy to find this post

I am happy to find this post Very useful for me, as it contains lot of information. I Always prefer to read The Quality and glad I found this thing in you post. Thanks
Pixo 35

Thanks for another wonderful

Thanks for another wonderful post. Where else could anybody get that type of info in such an ideal way of writing?
ev ses sistemi

What a really awesome post

What a really awesome post this is. Truly, one of the best posts I've ever witnessed to see in my whole life. Wow, just keep it up. lol Write-Up of an Econometric Research Paper

This is very educational

This is very educational content and written well for a change. It's nice to see that some people still understand how to write a quality post!
How to make my man love me forever

This is very educational

This is very educational content and written well for a change. It's nice to see that some people still understand how to write a quality post!
​硬碟資料救援

Great article its very

Great article its very striking. You have beautifully presented your thought in this blog post. I found so many interesting things in this blog, excellent work… girlsdoporn

This is really a nice and

This is really a nice and informative, containing all information and also has a great impact on the new technology. Thanks for sharing it
bandar bola

Wow, cool post. I’d like to

Wow, cool post. I’d like to write like this too – taking time and real hard work to make a great article… but I put things off too much and never seem to get started. Thanks though.
car amplifiers

You have done a great job. I

You have done a great job. I will definitely dig it and personally recommend to my friends. I am confident they will be benefited from this site. Mike Dan

You have a real ability for

You have a real ability for writing unique content. I like how you think and the way you represent your views in this article. I agree with your way of thinking. Thank you for sharing.
24 hour Dublin electrician

Love to read it,Waiting For

Love to read it,Waiting For More new Update and I Already Read your Recent Post its Great Thanks.
www.a-gift-of-love.com/why-cant-i-get-a-girl-to-go-out-with-me/

home protect warranty

I would like to read newer posts and to share my thoughts with you.
home protect warranty

and outsourcing pipette

and outsourcing pipette calibration to laboratories at different elevations are common occurrences in today’s life science community. And all of these tasks can expose pipettes to harsh environments and put data at risk. obat peninggi badan

are home warranties worth it

Wonderful article, thanks for putting this together! This is obviously one great post. Thanks for the valuable information and insights you have so provided here.
are home warranties worth it

Thanks For sharing this

Thanks For sharing this valuable info, I really appreciate it.. frases para Whatsapp

stanley home warranty

I just got to this amazing site not long ago. I was actually captured with the piece of resources you have got here. Big thumbs up for making such wonderful blog page.
stanley home warranty

Absolutely fantastic posting!

Absolutely fantastic posting! Lots of useful information and inspiration, both of which we all need!Relay appreciate your work.
wrap him around your finger pdf

Yes i am totally agreed with

Yes i am totally agreed with this article and i just want say that this article is very nice and very informative article.I will make sure to be reading your blog more. You made a good point but I can't help but wonder, what about the other side? !!!!!!THANKS!!!!!!
​israel flashnews

I definitely enjoying every

I definitely enjoying every little bit of it. It is a great website and nice share. I want to thank you. Good job! You guys do a great blog, and have some great contents. Keep up the good work.
sistema di gestione sicurezza

You have raised an important

You have raised an important issue..Thanks for sharing..I would like to read more current affairs from this blog..keep posting..
Agen Casino Online

I just want to let you know

I just want to let you know that I just check out your site and I find it very interesting and informative..

chess

This is truly a great read

This is truly a great read for me. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work!.
rebelmouse.com

Mmm.. good to be here in your

Mmm.. good to be here in your article or post, whatever, I think I should also work hard for my own website like I see some good and updated working in your site.
Agen Casino Online

its really fantastic blog .

its really fantastic blog . its realy informational and a such a good job. i love this
non shedding pet dogs

I was very pleased to find

I was very pleased to find this site.I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post.
บาคาร่าออนไลน์

Great Article it its really

Great Article it its really informative and innovative keep us posted with new updates. its was really valuable. thanks a lot.
Rebel Mouse

Interesting and amazing how

Interesting and amazing how your post is! It Is Useful and helpful for me That I like it very much, and I am looking forward to Hearing from your next..
online books

If you set out to make me

If you set out to make me think today; mission accomplished! I really like your writing style and how you express your ideas. Thank you.

payday loans online

This content is written very

This content is written very well. Your use of formatting when making your points makes your observations very clear and easy to understand. Thank you.

payday loans online

Its a great pleasure reading

Its a great pleasure reading your post.Its full of information I am looking for and I love to post a comment that "The content of your post is awesome" Great work.
Klicken Sie hier , um die Website zu besuchen

Great post I would like to

Great post I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this interesting and knowledgeable article.
rebelmouse

I read this article. I think

I read this article. I think You put a lot of effort to create this article. I appreciate your work προωθηση ιστοσελιδων

This article was written by a

This article was written by a real thinking writer. I agree many of the with the solid points made by the writer. I’ll be back.
pericardial mesothelioma

Assisting individuals who

Assisting individuals who perform positive thing might help. People can support along together using distributed the word. Then, other people calls for. facebook profile hack

These are great Myrdin! I

These are great Myrdin! I especially love number one about asking questions and of course-comfy shoes! I’m a writing geek, so I would add to the must have list “your favorite writing tool.” I love my electronics, but having my favorite pens to write the notes and big ideas just makes my heart happy. Can’t wait to see and meet everyone! auto accident lawyer

I am happy to find your

I am happy to find your distinguished way of writing the post. Now you make it easy for me to understand and implement the concept. the venus factor virtual nutritionist

I came onto your blog while

I came onto your blog while focusing just slightly submits. Nice strategy for next, I will be bookmarking at once seize your complete rises
size genetics

Excellent post, went ahead

Excellent post, went ahead and bookmarked your site. I can’t wait to read more from you.
รอยัล1688

Mmm.. good to be here in your

Mmm.. good to be here in your article or post, whatever, I think I should also work hard for my own website like I see some good and updated working in your site.
EMC XtremeIO

mpressive article it is

mpressive article it is benefit for the people full of awareness

eid mubarak 2015

Thanks for writing such a

Thanks for writing such a good article, I stumbled onto your blog and read a few post. I like your style of writing...
title loans atlanta

Even if a particle is only

Even if a particle is only situated on the ferrule or the edge of the endface, it can cause an air gap or misalignment in the termini between the cores.
obat kuat alami

Wonderful article, thanks for

Wonderful article, thanks for putting this together! This is obviously one great post. Thanks for the valuable information and insights you have so provided here. hemorrhoid no more review