The world of telecommunications, dominated by copper cable networks for years, is slowly incorporating fibre optics. Fibre optics, or optical fibre as they are also known, transmit information as light pulses through a glass or plastic strand. They are useful in high-performance and long-distance data networking.
An optical fibre contains glass or plastic strands ranging from a handful to a couple hundred. A glass layer known as cladding surrounds these fibres. The buffer layer, another layer of glass, supports the cladding and the jacket layer is the final layer of protection for the individual strands.
How do Fibre Optics Work?
Transmission of data across the fibre occurs through light particles or photons that pulse through the fibre. The cladding and glass fibre core refract the incoming light at different angles based on their refractive index. Once the photons are sent through the glass fibres, they reflect off the cladding and the core in zigzag bounces in a process called total internal reflection. These pulses travel at a speed 30% lesser than light because they travel through a denser medium: glass.
Types of Fibre Optics
There are two major types of fibre optics: single mode and multimode. Single mode fibre optics are used for long-distance communication due to the glass core’s reduced diameter, which also cuts the loss of signal strength-or attenuation. Single mode fibre support higher bandwidth over longer distances, and the light source is mainly a laser. They are expensive because high-level precision is required to channel the light through glass strands with small diameters.
Multimode fibres are best suited for short-distance communication. The larger diameter of the glass core allows multiple light pulses to be sent across the glass strand simultaneously and transmit more data. However, it means that there is a higher possibility of signal reduction, interference or loss. LED is the typical source of light for Multimode fibres.
Advantages of Fibre Optics
Fibre cables can support higher bandwidths than copper wires, and light can move further without a boost. They are less susceptible to interference, can be submerged in water and are stronger, lighter and thinner than copper cables. Most importantly, they do not have to be replaced or maintained frequently.
Applications of Fibre Optics
Computer networking is a growing user of fibres because of its ability to provide high bandwidth and transmit data. It is also used in long-distance communication between computer networks. It is used to provide better performance and connections in electronics and broadcasting. Military and space industries use optic fibres for their temperature sensing, signal transfer and as a means of communication. They are especially preferred for their lightweight and small size.
Medical industries use fibres to provide precise illuminations. Fibres are used in biomedical sensors that aid in medical procedures, especially those that are minimally invasive. Fibres are ideal for MRI scans as they are not subject to external interferences like electromagnetic interference. Moreover, fibres are used in light therapy, endoscopy, surgical imaging and X-Ray imaging.