Fiber Optic Adapters in the Data Center
Fiber optic couplers (also referred to as “adapters”) are an often overlooked part of the fiber optic cabling infrastructure in the data center. To the untrained eye, they all seem to look the same – but there are some very critical differences in adapter quality that can drastically affect data center performance.
These adapters play the critical role of aligning the individual fibers in a cable to the fibers in another cable. If fibers are not properly aligned, then loss is incurred at that mating point. If too much loss is incurred, downtime is a distinct possibility.
What should a data center technician look for in quality adapters?
Data center technicians should look at the materials used to manufacture couplers.
Some manufacturers may opt to use a metal, sometimes referred to as Phosphor Bronze (PB, Phos-Bronze and/or Phoz-Bronze). This alloy is noted for its strength and rigidity for large boat propellers, springs and bolts. However, ceramic materials are ideal for manufacturing couplers. Ceramics are non metallic, inorganic and crystalline in structure. The crystalline structure of ceramic allows for a very rigid surface that will not deform.
Why does this matter? As we discussed, alignment is critical. A softer metal like Phosphor Bronze will deform over time, especially with repeated plug-ins. Ceramic will hold its original shape for much longer. This makes a coupler that has ceramic alignment sleeves far superior to Phosphor Bronze.