Fiber Optics

Fiber optics is an ambiguous term, but in the technological world fiber optics commonly refers to data transmission through optical cables. Fiber optics have been used in toys and illumination technology for many years due to the unique way that light can be displayed, but optical fibers are a more recent technology. Optical fibers are engineered with the purest silica and wrapped in a reflective coating to ensure that the signal can be reflected through the fibers with minimal loss of intensity. This technology has led to many innovations in the communication industry; large amounts of data can be sent through a single fiber at a faster pace than data transfer with older technology. Communication companies are using optical cables that bundle several fibers into one cable saving space during installation, while increasing performance and speed.

History of Fiber Optics

Fiber Optics is a surprisingly old technology despite how extensively we use it today. The first demonstration can be tracked back to early 1840s. Daniel Colladon and Jacques Babinet demonstrated guiding light by refraction, by which fiber optics is possible, in Paris.

In the 1920s, Clarence Hansell, a radio experimenter, and John Baird, a television forerunner, independently demonstrated transmitting images through tubes. Heinrich Lamm Used the principle a decade later for internal medical examinations.

In 1952, experiments were conducted by Narinder Singh Kapany that led to the invention of fiber optics in its current capacity. He is known as the father of fiber optics. Modern optical fibers, where the glass fiber is coated with a transparent cladding to offer a more suitable refractive index, showed up in the later 1950s.

In 1963 a Japanese scientist by the name of Jun-ichi Nishizawa proposed the use of fiber optics for communication. He also contributed to its development with then invention of technology such as such as the graded-index optical fiber as a channel for transmitting light from semiconductor lasers.

How are Optical Fibers Made?

Optical fibers are made of completely pure optical glass. The less impurities that glass has the more clearly you can see through it, therefore optical glass is very clear.

It takes three steps to make optical fibers:
1. Make a preform glass cylinder
2. Draw the fibers from the preform
3. Test the fibers

Making the preform glass is done through a process called modified chemical vapor deposition (MCVD). In this process, oxygen bubbles in a solution of silicon chloride, germanium chloride and other chemicals. The gas vapors are conducted inside of a syntheic silica or quartz tube in a special lathe. A torch moves up and town the outside of the tube and the heat from the torch causes the silicone and germanium to react with oxygen, forming silicon dioxide and germanium dioxide. The heat also makes the silicone dioxide and germanium dioxide on the inside of the tube fuse together to form glass. This process can take up to several hours.

Once the preform blank cools and has been tested, it is loaded into a fiber drawing tower. The blank is loaded into a graphite furnace and the tip gets melted until a molten glob falls down. As this glob falls, it cools and forms a thread. The strand is threaded through a serious of coating cups and ultraviolet light curing ovens onto a spool. The mechanism pulls the fiber from the heated preform blank.

The last step is to test the optical fibers for:
  • Tensile strength
  • Refractive index profile
  • Fiber geometry
  • Attenuation
  • Information carrying capacity
  • Chromatic dispersion
  • Operating temperature/humidity range
  • Temperature dependence of attenuation
  • Ability to conduct light underwater

Once the fibers have passed these tests, they are sold.

´╗┐Advances in Fiber Optics

Individuals that regularly download files lager than a gigabyte have probably experienced significant latency, lag in download speed, at some point. This latency is endured for larger files, but try to imagine downloading a terabyte of data. The ability to download that much data may not have a huge demand at the present time, but technology exist that is able to transfer 12.5 terabytes of data in the blink of an eye.

Two research teams have recently set records for transferring data with ludicrous results. One research team used 370 (cite) separate laser to break up the data and send it through separate fibers. Another team achieved higher results using super fiber that was able to transmit 7 light pulses at once.(cite)

This technology is further advanced than the current needs of consumers and recreating either of these processes is expensive. With the ever expanding needs for storage and transmission, this research will prove beneficial in the near future.

Advantages of Fiber Optics

Fiber Optics have many advantages that multiple industries have adapted to for a more simple use or for safe precautions. The flexibility and size of the fiber optics has allowed careers such as medical and engineering, to make certain viewing task easier. People in the medical field can now use fiber optics for bronchoscopes, endoscopes, laparoscopes; making this delicate procedure more simple.

Low power energy has made fiber optics more favorable to save the cost of energy. Also, Fiber optics does not run off of electricity, making fiber optics non-flammable. The lightweight of fiber optics makes it easier to use and creates more floor space. Fiber optics is ideal for an industries simplicity and safety.