The benefits of Ion Enhanced Cold Plasma (IECP) to the optical fiber industry
Many factors affect the dielectric strength of a fixed length gap between two electrodes including: humidity, pressure / altitude, gases present, natural radioactivity, cosmic rays, and electrode condition. All of these factors change the dielectric strength by adding or removing free electrons / ions to the space between the electrodes and thereby altering the electrical resistance of the gap. Similar to the way a spark causes total dielectric breakdown by creating an ion trail from one electrode to another, just on a much smaller scale. The 3SAE Technologies, Inc. patent pending process called Ion Enhanced Cold Plasma (IECP) - reduces the electrode gap resistance by injecting negative ions into the gas between primary electrodes thereby drastically reducing the voltage required to cause dielectric breakdown and initiation of the arc. This minimizes the impact of the uncontrolled variables (listed above) while simultaneously decreases the magnitude of the current avalanche caused when dielectric breakdown occurs. Ion Bombardment - Ion bombardment is initiated by connecting a controlled high voltage circuit and placing its associated output electrode into close proximity of the primary arc electrodes. When the ionizer circuit is turned on, its electrode emanates ions into the air (or gas). The presence of these additional ions between the arc electrodes greatly reduces the dielectric strength of the gas. Since ionized air is a good conductor of electricity an arc can easily be created in this medium without significant consideration of the variables mentioned above and with significantly reduced voltages. In combination these advantages lead to a more stable and controllable arc.
Polyimide-coated fiber stripping - The electrical arc, and the plasma field created by it, can also be used to remove coatings from optical fibers. The instantaneous thermal transition of the coating as it enters the plasma field causes a rapid thermal expansion of the coating. When the rate of thermal expansion of the coating exceeds its modulus of elasticity the coating will “burst” outward away from the fiber leaving very little residue. If the coating is made up of a combustible material, either the plasma can be generated in an oxygen free environment or the majority of the coating can be removed mechanically prior to plasma exposure. The latter approach leverages the plasma field to vaporize any residual debris and can also be used for fibers with multiple coating layers (i.e. 900 micron fibers and ribbon fibers). If a fiber is coated with a material that has a low thermal expansion and is not combustible (i.e. polyimide), the plasma can be used to vaporize the coating in its entirety.