• instrumentation: spectrographs;
  • methods: laboratory;
  • techniques: spectroscopic


While there is no direct evidence for the deterioration in Focal Ratio Degradation (FRD) of optical fibres in severe temperature gradients, the fibre ends inserted into metallic containment devices such as steel ferrules can be a source of stress, and hence increased FRD at low temperatures. In such conditions, instruments using optical fibres may suffer some increase in FRD and consequent loss of system throughput when they are working in environments with significant thermal gradients, a common characteristic of ground-based observatories. In this paper we present results of experiments with optical fibres inserted in different materials as a part of our prototyping study for Gemini's Wide-field Multi-Object Spectrograph (WFMOS) project. Thermal effects and the use of new holding techniques will be discussed in the context of Integral Field Units and multi-fibres systems. In this work, we have used careful methodologies that give absolute measurements of FRD to quantify the advantages of using epoxy-based composites rather than metals as support structures for the fibre ends. This is shown to be especially important in minimizing thermally induced stresses in the fibre terminations. Not only is this important for optimizing fibre spectrograph performance but the benefits of using such materials are demonstrated in the minimization of positional variations and the avoidance of metal-to-glass delamination. Furthermore, by impregnating the composites with small zirconium oxide particles the composite materials supply their own fine polishing grit which aids significantly to the optical quality of the finished product.