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Connector Insights from iCONN

What is a Wet-Mate Connector?

Posted by Rick Regole on Mon, August 31, 2020

WaterproofConnectorsElectrical connectors come in infinite shapes and sizes with customizable features to meet the exact specifications of an application. However, only wet-mate connectors can solve the ultimate electrical conundrum—the delivery of power, signal and/or data underwater. More recently, iCONN Systems developed a patented, niobium-based product line called, NiobiCONN™ that outperforms every other type of wet-mate connector in the market today. However, to fully appreciate just how revolutionary the NiobiCONN wet-mate connector is, it’s helpful to understand how far wet-mate connector designs have come.

Though wet-mate connectors have been around for more than a century, this proven technology wouldn’t hit its stride until WWII, when submarines and SONAR detection created a new and crucial demand for better underwater electrical solutions. In the 1950s, a variety of underwater connector patents created new competition in the interconnect market. Further heightened by the ever-expanding oil and gas industry, manufacturers found themselves in an all-out sprint to invent the most rugged connector on the market, many of which are still used today.

Wet-Mate Connector Concepts:

  • Dielectric Grease Connectors use a silicon-based grease at the junction point to repel water and protect exposed metal components from corrosion.
  • Oil-Filled Pressure-Balanced Connectors rely on oil-filled chambers, O-rings, and a piston wiping design to isolate the contacts from seawater, clean pins before contact, and balances the pressure in deep-sea applications.
  • Vented Pin & Socket Connectors feature neoprene rubber molding and a vent hole in the female socket that expels water when the connector is mated to balance pressure.
  • Fiber Optic (aka glass-filled epoxy) connectors improve the signal-to-noise ratios to support higher rates of data communication by transmitting pulses of light instead of electrical signals. Rather than the traditional jack and plug design, two fibers align end-to-end, mechanically mated, and sealed within a water-tight enclosure.

The performance capabilities and shelf life of wet-mate connectors improved immensely with each iteration. However, limitations still plague technicians tasked with maintaining underwater electrical systems and networks. Due to the complexity of the designs, these wet-mate connectors require more effort to install, are notoriously difficult to build or repair, and are expensive to replace.

iCONN’s NiobiCONN wet-mate connectors are the answer to over a century of subsea electrical headaches.

NiobiCONN WET-MATE CONNECTORS

Where traditional wet-mate connectors are designed to keep water out, niobium-based wet-mate connectors are designed to let water in. Niobium contacts create their own insulating film when energized and exposed to water. The passive film isolates the contacts and prevents any electrical shorting or leakage. In addition to NiobiCONN’s exceptional waterproof capabilities, these connectors can be mated and unmated limitless times while submerged at any depth.

Additional NiobiCONN design features include:

  • No seals, O-rings, or gaskets
  • Touch-safe in and out of water
  • Available in infinite shapes and sizes.
  • Compatible with off-the-shelf solutions
  • Power over Ethernet (PoE) capable

Learn more about the versatility of iCONN’s NiobiCONN wet-mate connectors for your underwater applications.

Learn more about the NiobiCONN