What Is an Optical Patch Cable?

An optical patch cable is cable that comes with connectors on both sides and is made to connect one device — usually a power source — to another — usually a device. Unlike copper patch cables, an optical patch cable uses optical fibers to carry power, so light energy is being carried instead of electricity. As with many other types of cables, these patch cables come in different colors so workers can distinguish them, and they range from around 3 inches (7.6 centimeters) to 20 feet (6.1 meters). Specialized patch cables are used to connect servers and switch ports between networks.

Patch cables, regardless of whether they are copper or specialized, are all made to connect something to a device. The most typical case is connecting the device, such as a laptop or phone charger, to a power source. To perform this task, the optical patch cable must have two heads or connectors, so it can connect to both the device and the power source. Many patch cables have the same connector on both sides, but there also are cables that come with two different connectors.

With an optical patch cable, there is an optical fiber inside the cable that brings power or data from one side of the cable to another. Unlike copper cables, which do this through heat and electricity, optical patch cables use the refraction of light to carry power or data. This technology is faster than copper cables and tends to be less expensive to create. Power degrades less in a fiber optic setting, so less power is needed overall.

Like most other cable types, an optical patch cable can come in many different colors. These colors may mean nothing to consumers, who typically have one cable for one device, but electrical workers should appreciate this distinguishing characteristic. If all the patch cables are the same color and one cable has to be changed or repaired, then it can be hard to know which cable needs to be worked on.

Most optical patch cables on the market are made to connect power sources and devices, but there are specialized optical patch cable units made for servers and switch ports in a network. These cables not only connect all the computers together but also allow the computers to share and send files to other computers or users. This also connects the network to the Internet to facilitate file sharing and to increase productivity.