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A fiber optic coupler is an optical device capable of connecting one or more fiber ends in order to allow the transmission of light waves in multiple paths. The device is capable of combining two or more inputs into a single output and also dividing a single input into two or more outputs. Compared to a splice or connector, the signal can be more attenuated by fiber optic couplers, as the input signal can be divided amongst the output ports.
Fiber optic couplers can broadly be classified as active or passive devices. An external power source is required for active fiber optic couplers, whereas no power is required for operation of passive fiber optic couplers. There are different types of fiber optic couplers such as X couplers, combiners, splitters, stars and trees. Tree couplers perform both the functions of combiners and splitters in one device. This categorization is mostly based on the number of input and output ports. Combiners combine two signals and provide one output. Splitters supply two outputs while making use of one optical signal. The splitters can further be categorized into Y couplers and T couplers, with the former having equal power distribution and latter an uneven power distribution. Star couplers help in distributing power from inputs to outputs. Tree couplers are either multi-input with a single output or multi-output with a single input. Important parameters when considering a fiber optic coupler are splitting ratio, insertion loss, cable category, coupler type, signal wavelength, input numbers, output numbers and polarization dependent loss. The three major types of manufacturing technologies used in fiber optic couplers are fused-fiber, micro optics and planar waveguide.
There are many benefits of using fiber optic couplers. They have low excess loss, high stability, dual operating window, high reliability and low polarization dependent loss. They also have high directivity and low insertion loss.
Many applications make use of fiber optic couplers such as community antenna networks, optical communication systems and fiber-to-home technology.