What Is Variable Fiber Optic Attenuators?

Variable Fiber Optic Attenuators, or fiber optic attenuator, is a device used to reduce the power level of an optical signal, either in free space or in an optical fiber. The basic types of optical attenuators are fixed, step-wise variable, and continuously variable.

Variable Fiber Optic Attenuators
Variable Fiber Optic Attenuators

Variable optical test attenuators generally use a variable neutral density filter. Despite relatively high cost, this arrangement has the advantages of being stable, wavelength insensitive, mode insensitive, and offering a large dynamic range. Other schemes such as LCD, variable air gap etc. have been tried over the years, but with limited success.

They may be either manually or motor controlled. Motor control give regular users a distinct productivity advantage, since commonly used test sequences can be run automatically.

Attenuator instrument calibration is a major issue. The user typically would like an absolute port to port calibration. Also, calibration should usually be at a number of wavelengths and power levels, since the device is not always linear. However a number of instruments do not in fact offer these basic features, presumably in an attempt to reduce cost. The most accurate variable attenuator instruments have thousands of calibration points, resulting in excellent overall accuracy in use.