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Intramodal dispersion is pulse spreading that occurs within a single mode.

It is a result of the group velocity being a function of the wavelength . Since intramodal dispersion depends on the wavelength, its effect on signal distorsion increases with the spectral width of the optical source. This spectral width is the band of wavelenths over which the source emits light. It is normally characterized by the root-mean-square (rms) spectral width . For light emitting diodes (LEDs) the rms spectral width is approximately 5 percent of a central wavelength. For example, if the peak emission wavelength of an LED source is 850 nm, a typical source spectral width would be 40 nm; that is, the source emits most of its optical power in the 830 to 870 nm wavelength bands. Laser diode optical sources have much narrower spectral widths, typical values being 1 to 2 nm. The two main causes of intramodal dispersion are: 1. Material dispersion, which arises from the variation of the refractive index of the core material as a function of wavelength. (Material dispersion is sometimes referred to as chromatic dispersion or spectral dispersion, since this is the same effect by which a prism spreads out a spectrum.). This causes a wavelength dependence of the group velocity of any given mode; that is, pulse spreading occures even when different wavelengths follow the same path. 2. Waveguide dispersion, which occurs because a single-mode fiber only confines about 80 percent of the optical power to the core. Dispersion thus arises, since the 20 percent of the light propagating in the cladding travels faster than the light confined to the core. The amount of waveguide dispersion depends on the fiber design, since the modal propagation constant is a function of a/ (the optical fiber dimension relative to the wavelength ; here a is the core radius.)

Modal dispersion It is important to examine the nature and effects of modal transmission. A fiber that has a high NA and/or diameter will have a large number of modes (rays of lights) operating along the length of that fiber. An omnidirectional light source (i.e. one that effectively radiates light rays equally in all directions) such as an LED will emit several thousand rays of light in a single pulse. Because the light source injects a broad angle of beam into the core, each mode of light travelling at a different angle as it propagtes down the fiber will therefore that it will take different length of time for each ray to travel from one end of the fiber to the other. The light transmitter will launch all modes into the fiber exactly at the same time, and the signal will appear at the the beginning of the fiber as a short sharp pulse. By the time the light reaches the end of the fiber, it will have spread out and will appear as an elongated pulse. This is referred to as a modal dispersion. The light ray that travels down the center axis of the fiber is referred to as the fundamental mode and is the lowest order mode possible. The light rays that travel the shorter distances down the length of the fiber are the lower order modes and the rays that travel the longer distances down the fiber are the higher order modes. If the input light pulses are too close together, then the output pulses will overlap on each other, causing inter-symbol interference at the receiver. The effect of modal dispersion would rely on this development. This situation will make it difficult for the receiver to distinguish between pulses and will introduce errors into the data. This is the major factor in the fiber optic cables (multimode types) that limit transmission speed. This is illustrated in figure below. It can be seen from this diagram that it will be difficult for the receiver to distinguish between the output pulses as they overlap on each other as they exit the fiber core (inter-symbol interference). Modal dispersion is measured in nanoseconds and is given by the following formula:

Where, D = D0 = Di =

total dispersion of a pulse pulse width at the output of the fiber in nanoseconds pulse width at the input of the fiber in nanoseconds

Modal dispersion increases with increasing NA, and therefore, the bandwidth of the fiber decreses with an increse in NA. The same rule applies to the increasing diameter of the core.